Quickie Post — the Lighter Side of Authoritarianism, demonstrated by Goby Fish

Conor Williams Peak Summit

Conor, in the Clearwater backcountry, July, 2018

Frans de Waal, the empathy pioneer who studies mostly animal empathy, posts interesting animal behavior from time to time on his FB page.  I thought this particular video captured better than anything the pointlessness of arguing with a true, egocentric Authoritarian.

As I’ve noted in the past, different v-Memes are equipped with different conflict resolution modes.  Authoritarians, with chronic dichotomous thinking, always boil everything down to three modes — I win, you lose/You win, I lose/We both fall away exhausted.

Thanks for the fish teaching us this important v-Meme lesson!

Quickie Post — the Not-so-Hidden Cost of the Empathy-Disordered in Social Networks

Conor Kelly Creek Hoodoos

Dunedain training, Clearwater backcountry, north-central Idaho  August 2018 — in case you’re wondering what we emphasize, it’s cheerily stoic, steadfast performance, coupled with calm, relentless awareness.

Fellow chronic co-conspirator Ryan Martens sent a link regarding corporate gaslighting from a former colleague of his at Rally Software, Shannon Mason.  Shannon is the VP of Product Management at the recently absorbed Rally after it was bought by Computer Associates.  Addressing the issue of ‘gaslighting‘ in corporate environments, Shannon points out a mix of the personal effects of gaslighting on the individual — increased hypervigilance and workplace instability, as well as the broader systemic effects rippling across the system, where individuals check and re-check work because of the fear of being caught off-guard, with career-limiting consequences.  One of the great things about this piece is Shannon is one of the only people I’ve ever seen address some of the things I discuss in my work on the empathy-disordered, which is the system-level disruption that happens when the empathy-disordered work on relational disruption inside social networks.

I had never seriously contemplated Shannon’s ‘wasted energy’ argument.  It was revelatory for me. But it shows, once again, how you can run, but you can’t hide from the empathetic development, and its subsequent timescales it allows and encourages in your organization.  If you’ve got someone who’s using psychological distortion to manipulate the environment for their own, selfish gain, far too much energy is going to get dumped into short timescale thinking.

The implications are straightforward.  You’re so busy watching the fly on the end of your nose, you and your employees miss the large market changes that really determine the fate of your company.  And, of course, there’s also the very real consequence of talent flight that will occur if you allow this kind of behavior to continue.  Labor mobility of top talent is real.  And healthy, evolving people expect to come to work to do work — not play some weird game of gotcha.

Here’s a background post written by myself that gives more richness to this problem.

How Health Care Deprivation and the Consequences of Poor Diet is Feeding Contemporary Authoritarianism – The Trump ACA Debacle

Lochsa Amazement Chuck

Yours Truly, charging — uh, kinda.  Grim Reaper Rapid, Lochsa River, ID   Mike Beiser photo

One of the most distressing things occurring in the Trump administration is its destructive focus on dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, arguably the largest legacy of the Obama administration.  To start, this post is not about how wonderful the ACA is.  I’m not interested in that, otherwise known as Obamacare, because for one thing, I think it’s deeply flawed.  We should have a single payer insurance plan, like every other civilized country.   People regularly, across the world, pay about half what is paid in the U.S. for equivalent services.  (One of the perverse ancillary benefits, however, is that in the long run, what might get most Americans out of the country and perforate our continental bubble is health care tourism.  I already have had multiple friends travel to Mexico for dental care. But I digress.)

We have to have some modern health care safety net if we want to have a modern economy.  You simply can’t have the personal agency needed to drive job creation, as well as social mobility, without it.

There’s also a series of wicked feedback loops that are manifesting in contemporary healthcare that really didn’t even exist 20 years ago.  When you couple the skyrocketing cost of health care, with the absolute necessity of having health insurance, add in a population basically collapsing from metabolic syndrome, mix in the ability of companies to perform debt collection, and then add an increasingly authoritarian government into the mix, you have a recipe for societal control and real collapse — not just creative collapse.  Here’s a great piece with lots of numbers and little politics to give you perspective.  In 1960, 5% of our GDP was health care.  Now it’s almost 18%.

The upshot of those kinds of numbers is that you reach a nonlinear point where people can’t afford to not have a job, because the buried wage paid through employment with a large employing institution, once externalized, crosses the survival threshold for rent, food, and such.  And then an individual can’t move from their current position.  When you add to this increasing obesity, cancer, and general ill health from metabolic syndrome, as well as the slow creep of more catastrophic illnesses earlier in people’s lives (and away from the age-based safety net of Medicare) the chances of something bad happening increase — and people won’t take the risk.  Just how lucky do you feel, punk?

All this, viewed from a v-Meme lens, is terrifying.   As well as putting a damper on entrepreneurship.  You want to start a company?  You want to risk personal medical bankruptcy? Here’s a pretty good dissection of the possibilities on Snopes.

Into all this walks our current President, whom I’ve written about earlier regarding his predilections.  It’s easy to focus on Trump and his disordered empathy perspective, but the problem is larger.  He requires the submission of agencies under his control, as well as many other elected representatives, to derail that signature accomplishment of the Obama administration.  And since he is a chronic relational disruptor, part of the strategy is sowing fragmentation in the connected community, which interestingly enough involves the insurance companies.

It’s easy to argue that the insurance companies are a bunch of pirates, and if we didn’t have their influence in the electoral process through subversions of the public will like the Citizens United decision, we’d be far better off.  But interestingly, what really comes through in this piece on NPR in the conflict described here  is v-Meme conflict.  The insurance business is highly regulated, and pretty much a guaranteed profit business.  Insurance pricing runs heavily on data, which is combined into actuarial tables.  Companies then take those projected costs, add a fixed percentage as granted by law, and rake in the dough.  Naturally, they work hard to undermine the system through denying claims and such.  If you think the game is rigged in their favor for them (as long as they’re not cut out of the game, especially with health care) well, it is.

Why this is interesting is it means that the insurance companies are fundamentally solid Legalistic v-Meme occupiers.  They have a whole business built on stasis, and played by certain rules that guarantee profits.  They don’t like any change, of course, but they can tolerate change if it can be quantified in rules, with data, that allows them to continue to rake in the dough.

But the Trump administration doesn’t like Obamacare, whatever the rules are.  And it’s Trump’s authority uber alles.  He’s the Truth Decider.

So the latest thing Trump is doing is this:  because Trump hates Obamacare, in order to establish his authority, he has to disrupt it.  He’s done lots of different things, including working to get it repealed.  That’s historic.  The latest thing involves two legal cases regarding the formula to establish ‘risk adjustment’ payments across pools.  One judge found the calculation schedule ‘arbitrary and capricious’.  Another did not.  So, in classic v-Meme borrowing form, when a player (in this case the Trump administration) is motivated to assert their v-Meme, they ‘borrow’ from a higher v-Meme (in this case, Legalistic- there were two court cases) to assert their authority, and their direction.  They select the truth to act on, and (dependent on their v-Meme) assert their values.  Which in Trump’s case, is all about controlling the truth.

What this means is Trump is now ordering his folks to simply not pay certain “risk adjustment” payments, totaling $10.4B to the insurance companies for balancing risk pools between high- and low-risk health care subscribers.  Insurance only works as a distributed pool — and by doubling down on the fragmentation card (exactly what we would expect to see in any v-Meme devolution!) he’s causing relational disruption and chaos in the industry.  You want to mess with a bunch of rule followers, which is what the insurance industry is?  Just start arbitrarily and erratically changing the rules.

Here’s a pull quote from the NPR piece:

“Insurers hate uncertainty, and when faced with it tend to raise premiums to hedge their bets,” says Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation. He says halting the risk adjustment program will disrupt the individual markets, and might even cause insurers not to participate next year.

That’s exactly what psychopaths do — create uncertainty, so others just go away.  Fewer players, communicating with each others less, allow the empathy-disordered to control the playing field.  In this case, it’s forcing the folks in the Out-group to get in an In-group where they’re controlled.  Or, essentially, die.  At some level, it’s boring, it’s so predictable.  But of course, this has a profound effect on people’s lives.

There’s a lot more to write here, but the short version as far as more generalizable insights is this:  narcissistic psychopaths will use whatever tool they can get a grip on in their toolkit to achieve their aims.  It doesn’t matter whether the behavior comes from a higher v-Meme or not.  It’s about their control.  And when it comes to the ACA, Trump won’t stop until he’s out of office.  He’s just gotta be better than Obama.  At least in his own head.

The even larger view, though, gets back to the title of the piece.  Without a large enough authority protecting you in U.S. society, in a world where everyone’s getting fatter and more unhealthy, you’re dead meat.  You don’t need a gun being held to your head to feel The Man’s boot on your neck.  You just need to eat another donut at the office.  Not very empathetic.

 

More Empathy and Child-Rearing, with Some Help from Franz Kafka

DSC_9221

Conor charging, July 2018, Lochsa Falls — Mike Beiser photo

A meme came scooting across my Facebook feed the other day, about a famous (and apparently true) story about Franz Kafka and his friendship with a young girl who had lost her doll.  The meme was a little intellectually simplified (or depauperated) depending on your perspective.  But I had to find out if it was actually true, so I rooted around using The Google and found this post by Paul Auster, from his book Brooklyn Follies Auster’s a true heavy-hitter, and I’ve read several of his pieces in Granta.  If Paul’s writing about it, I’m going to guess it’s actually true.

The short version is this:  Kafka is dying of tuberculosis.  He meets a young nine-year-old girl in a park he walks in daily with his lover, Dora Diamant, who has lost her doll.  Kafka connects with the little girl, and though they hunt for the doll, they cannot find her.  So Kafka asserts that the doll has just gone on a journey to the little girl.  And then proceeds, over a number of days, to create a fictional travelogue of the doll to ease the pain of loss the little girl is feeling.  The last letter he delivers, three weeks later, has Kafka marrying off the doll and having her start a new life in another part of the world.  I highly recommend reading the story.  I’m no Paul Auster!

What’s interesting about this is that Kafka is applying the techniques I talked about in the previous post on raising children, to this little girl who is a stranger to him.  What he is doing could also be labeled gaslighting — one could argue that he’s creating a psychological distortion inside the little girl’s brain of the reality that her doll has been lost.  By creating an alternate history, he is making a choice in her development.  Spare her the trauma of loss, through an elaborate, thoughtful deception.  But also prevent her growth of learning how to grieve for things one loves.

For me, I think this example shows  that one cannot truly understand superficial/surface-level actions without interpreting the fundamental connection that exists between two people at the time of the action.  You cannot completely get there without analyzing intent.  Kafka was an interesting guy — but he was no psychopath.  During the period of the letters, the evidence is pretty clear he was deeply connected to the young girl’s emotions, and was not manipulating her for his own egocentric benefit.  I’ve written about this on this blog on-and-off, but the most important idea is the not-so-simple one about Mario Kart.  With even the most simple of things, you can’t understand the game without understanding what’s under the game.  Which often looks very different from what you’re seeing on the surface.

I’ve called psychopathy ‘collapsed ego-centricism’ in the past.  All Authoritarian Red v-Meme and nothing else.  I think that definition holds up.  As parents, we are always in the business of creating alternate worlds for our children. Those worlds are necessarily not total and complete.  And they may indeed be a distortion.  But if we are connected with our kids, we can do our best to know when we can allow the fiction to roll, and when we have to tell our children that what they’re experiencing is a magic trick.  Sort of.

I’m reminded of a famous Zen saying:

“If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

The real answer, as we go forward as parents, is developing and acting on our own self-awareness.  We must constantly look inward into our own hearts, while looking outward to the long-term benefit of the young people in our life.  And since this often includes managing our own fears,  it is easier said than done.  But if there is a key, it is staying connected.  Empathy is our one real hope.

PS: The Wikipedia entries for both Franz Kafka and Dora Diamant are well worth reading on their own.  I linked to the picture search for Dora because I think it’s useful to project through these pictures to what their complex lives must have been like.  

Empathy and Child-Rearing — Lessons from my life, and the movie The Incredibles

Conor Grim Reaper Lochsa

Focus — Conor at the top of Grim Reaper, a rapid on the Lochsa River, Idaho — photo Mike Beiser

Though it’s been a long road, as a predominantly single parent, I’ve managed to launch both my boys off into the world of adulthood.  My youngest son, Conor, just turned 18 a week ago.

I didn’t do it alone — I had some help along the way, from stepmother Alicia, of course, as well as a host of stand-in grandparents, and aunts and uncles.  I was never gifted with a healthy family, and have viewed myself as an orphan for most of my adult life, fairly, I think.  Let’s put it this way — I didn’t learn all the lessons I discuss on this blog by being surrounded by a welcoming sea of empathy.  It’s been an exercise in contrasts.  ‘Nuf said.

And though, like any parent, I worry about both of them, realistically both my sons are on their way to adulthood, and doing fine.  Oldest son Braden (he’s 20) is launching his own start-up company in the crypto-blockchain space.  He’s the CTO of BuyEthDomains.com, which may actually be functional here in a week or two.  He’s making his mark in the digital identity space, and I have reasonable confidence  he’ll make it.  Younger son Conor is headed off to Willamette College in the fall.  Both boys exemplify hustle, and both, on their own, are far along the way to financial independence.  Though either of them might end up back on the couch in the rec. room, I sincerely doubt it.

I have an awesome relationship with both boys.  I am truly blessed.

Since I’ve raised so many kids in my life (I was in nominally in charge of my first family at the age of 9 — I was a terrible 9-year-old parent)  — and of course, the thousands of students I’ve raised in the Industrial Design Clinic — I’ve been thinking about writing a book on parenting.  Many of the principles of sound parenting are the same as evolving a company, and  not surprisingly, follow the Spiral, and growth of agency, reflection, and personal responsibility, and both their key dynamic and their end result — empathy.

This is easier said than done.  Being a parent is the hardest job most people will ever have, and the advice out there is simply horrendous.  Most of it involves teaching, preaching, and telling.  I can tell you there are consequences — none particularly good — that come from beating stuff into people’s head, once you move past about the age of 5.  The short answer to success, however, is relatively simple.  Here it is:

Create safe environments for your children to function in, with functional adults, and don’t interfere.  You work on creating the situations.  Let the children navigate both the situations, and the individuals involved.  The independent relational generation will take care of the rest.

Back in this post, I discussed how the brain gained usable knowledge.  The short version is facts and scaffolding go in on the left, and through experience, become knit together in the hippocampus to form autobiographical experiences, laced with binding emotion, on the right.  This process, though modified and interpreted by me somewhat, (I own all errors of interpretation!) is really applying Dr. Daniel Siegel’s trauma model to the process of education.

What does that translate to as far as your kids?   I start out with a three-step Guiding Principles ladder that I started teaching my kids at the earliest age possible.

  1. Pay Attention (age 3-7)
  2. You are (appropriately) responsible for yourself (age 4-9)
  3. You are responsible for others (age 7-adult)

Naturally, everything maps back to these guiding principles.  It never hurts to emphasize these a little early, but expecting a seven year old to do much more than hold the hand of their buddy is not particularly realistic.  ‘Pay Attention’ is the first step — being aware of the world around you.  It is the nexus of being data-driven and empathetic.

Now here is the big one, stated previously, for you as the parent.  Following the italicized paragraph above, which says that you’re responsible for creating the environment the child primarily functions in (don’t forget that part!)

DON’T TELL THEM WHAT TO DO (unless you absolutely have to — and you usually don’t absolutely have to!)

Let the sidebars and the constraints the child naturally runs into be the thing that redirects the behavior.

And here is the other big thing that you do as a parent.

DISCUSS THE CONSEQUENCES OF DIFFERENT ACTIONS WITH THEM (in the context of that safe space you’ve created.)

I spent a good hunk of my leisure time with my boys running whitewater.  Whenever we would look at a rapid, I would ask them “well, where do you think you should go?”  Inevitably (the whitewater wasn’t that hard) it would end up with ‘down the right’ or something.  If it was a reasonable option, I’d say ‘OK’.  If it wasn’t the path I’d take, I’d say “Well, I think I’m gonna go down the left.”  If they elected to go right, and they did great, I would congratulate them on a job well done.  And if they blew the line, well, the river would dole out the ass-kicking.  Not me.

Why does this matter?  Every time you correct your child, as opposed to creating a situation which delivers either correct behavior, or lessons learned from failure, you run the risk of also creating a diminution of agency, and what is called narcissistic injury.  Put simply, narcissistic injury is an Authoritarian v-Meme blow to the egocentric self.  It actually breeds more narcissism, because instead of allowing the child to appropriately aggregate their experiences, and reflect on the consequences, the child is placed into a situation where they instead focus on your control of their actions.  This insertion of your parental authority into their ego is a boundary violation and a separation of child from a natural growth path.

That doesn’t mean for a red second I haven’t told my children as I’ve raised them ‘No’. But it’s a tool to be used sparingly.  And needless to say, I would never taunt my child after a failure.  Your job is NOT to establish the authority of your knowledge.  It is to help the child understand how to make a better decision the next time around.

One of my favorite movies that shows inherently the peril of ignoring this is the first Incredibles movie.  In that movie, the antagonist, Buddy, initially admires Mr. Incredible and wants to emulate him.  It’s insinuated that Mr. Incredible has been patient with Buddy, but early in the movie (on Mr. Incredible’s wedding day to Elastigirl) Buddy, who has named himself Incrediboy, interferes with Mr. Incredible’s crime-fighting efforts, and has to be sent home in shame with the police.

Buddy is a genius, and never truly recovers from the psychic wound this trauma delivers.  The end result is that it transforms his path from being a good guy and fighting crime to being an empathy-disordered psychopath.  He turns himself into a super-villain named Syndrome, with one goal of killing off Mr. Incredible.  In the end, he is undone by a number of factors, but none more primary than his own narcissism.  Needless to say, that’s not the relationship you want to have with your kid.

Some parents might interpret this advice as creating only positive situations for children to learn with, or interfering in relationships with potentially difficult (but still safe– that matters!) adults.  I strongly believe that once an adult is inside your safe zone, you should let your children interact with them as the child sees fit.  I do make a point of advising the adult that if they spoil the child, I won’t be stepping in to deliver discipline, or otherwise interfere.  The result is that my children both have a rich set of relationships with a truly diverse network of adults. Your child is going to have to learn to deal with people who think differently from them, or even you.  So many of the ‘bubble’ problems we’re seeing in adults nowadays could be prevented if more adults adopted this attitude.

In the end, it is all about empathy development.  Remember the Guiding Principles, and create the situations.  You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is than policing.

 

The Lighter Dark Side of Humor and Empathy — Anthony Jeselnik

ChuckUpperLochsa.jpg

Yours Truly on the third day of summer, Upper Lochsa River, Idaho, Mary Nielsen photo.  For perspective, that’s a 95 gallon boat, basically submerged.

After an exciting weekend with one of my original passions — whitewater kayaking with my son, Conor, who I’m super-proud to say ran the Lochsa River, our Class III-IV backyard world-class gem — I came back and needed a little brain-down-time.  I found this special by Anthony Jeselnik on Netflix.  Jeselnik is specifically a super-dark-humor comedian, so whether you enjoy this or not is really going to depend on whether you like this kind of thing.  His special, ‘Thoughts and Prayers’, is at this link on Netflix.  And since this blog will stay up, it means that ‘this special is now available on Netflix for a limited time.’  Here’s a clip on Youtube of one of the funnier pieces:

Jeselnik is taking mental models of what Grandma is supposed to do and giving you a multi-level take on the truth.  I’m not going to say more, because I want you to listen to the clip.  But the short version is that Jeselnik is one of the few comedians that blurs the meta-line on the v-Meme stack successfully.

Humor has always been interesting to me — especially because what people laugh at is often a key indicator of psychosocial development.  Slapstick is low empathy AND meta-linear — the helpless sap steps on a banana peel, and knocks his head.  That’s as linear a cause-and-effect algorithm as one can come up with.  And if that person isn’t in your Out-Group, your own developed empathy will prevent you from laughing.

It’s not to say that slapstick can’t ascend to a high art. There are extremely sophisticated versions that can amaze.  The Three Stooges were strange geniuses in their own right.  But for the most part, slapstick is boring.  And especially, I’ve found that cruel slapstick (Jackass, anyone?) is a stimulant for the empathy disordered.  They get into watching someone else get hurt.

More evolved, empathetic humor involves connecting to you and your life events, often with the pathos and vulnerability exhibited by the comedian.  It often involves real multi-solution thinking — what’s really going on with a particular character and their life.  Authenticity is the grounding connector here, and by relating directly to the ambiguity of the comedian’s various predicaments, we gain hopeful insight into why we do things, good or bad.  Or how they can be both at the same time.  I’m a Mike Birbiglia fan, FWIW.  Here’s a clip of his work.

But Jeselnik’s humor is different.  Jeselnik’s performance character delivers empathy-disordered humor, aimed at attacking the empathy disordered.  Jeselnik is a true Vampire Hunter, and says as much.  This clip, discussing what he does as his performance character, from a real perspective, is after he’s gone through a whole 40 minutes of content that is, at times, very funny, yet leaves one feeling more than a little uneasy about the fact that you’re probably  laughing.  In this piece, he attacks the inherent narcissism in the statement ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.

But that’s not how he ends his special.  The clip below is that.

Is it a cautionary tale about how those that hunt the Undead turn into them, regardless of their best intentions?  Or has he just stacked the meta-deck one more level?  You can listen and decide for yourself.

Contrasting a Model of Hierarchical Complexity with Evolution vs. Sophistication and Empathy

Braden glowing rock

Egypt I, Grand Staircase/Escalante NM, Utah, May 2018 — Braden taking a look

I was recently prompted to read by my friend, Hanzi Freinacht, about the theory called a Model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC), developed by Michael Commons , in the ’80s, and expounded on and patented for use in Artificial Intelligence (AI).  It’s billed as an information-theoretic (meaning things end up in bits and bytes) methodology for measuring complexity of thoughts and actions.  As such, it ends up being divorced from culture, social structure, and human behavior, which makes it appealing as an uber-algorithmic be-all, end-all way of describing how humans act.  Efforts have been made (relatively successfully, I might add!) to map these to various developmental stage theorists, such as Jean Piaget.  That’s all well and good.

The way that all scoring schemes have to work, though, is through what I call an integral, or perhaps integrative approach, and I don’t mean in either the typical socio-psychological senses.  I mean it in the math sense, and what THAT means is that, if you remember your first-year calculus, the definition of a definite integral is that you take some function (a drawn-out wiggly line) and over some range, collapse it down to a number.  For those that are now indulging in an age-induced headache, that’s the whole “area under a curve” thing.

definite integral

You might remember counting the little squares or something.  The bottom line is that you take a complex sequence of information, and come up with a measure/scalar value for A.  From: https://www.mathsisfun.com/calculus/integration-definite.html

Needless to say, Commons’ scheme is FAR more complex than that, with lots of bits in different locations that represent different types of things — namely that complexity builds on complexity, and in order to hop up different levels — very meta-meta-linear!, you first have to demonstrate mastery of a lower level.  For example, you have to know how to add and subtract real numbers before you can figure out how to add and subtract real variables.  For those that this stuff is some kind of mental Adderall, I highly recommend surfing through the Wikipedia table on MHC (the link is the reference given on Wikipedia.  Not surprisingly, it’s algorithmic, and as such, poses as objective.  And it pops right out of the scientists’ social structure.  Agency appears explicitly not at all.

As such, people are using this for calibrating AI (that’s what the patent’s all about) and that’s all fine as well.  But when you collapse the generative dynamics out of the picture, you lose intent, empathetic development, and most importantly, individual agency.

I’ve done a lot of pondering on the complexity of knowledge myself.  For example, you may have highly empathetically evolved, reflective societies or cultures, like some aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, that in the end do a pretty miserable job of providing for the lower-level v-Meme needs of their core constituencies.  Zen monks may do an excellent job of understanding deeper mysteries, of the universe, but they might not do so hot on growing tomatoes.  For me, a better view of complexity gets laid out on a 2-D plot, shown below;

Evolution vs Sophistication

Evolution vs. Sophistication

Where something like MHC would come in is distilling a location in this 2-D space, (for you math people, might be more like a vector) into a single (scalar) value  (kind of like a meta-vector magnitude. )  All my math friends can fuss at me in the comments.

Of course, MHC collapsing that down to a value — that’s its purpose, after all.  So a society could value everyone’s opinion very highly, yet be far less complex than a low-empathy one that used sophisticated authorities and algorithms.  Chinese society is a great example of this — they got stuck with narcissistic authoritarianism about 2500 years ago — and made a very sophisticated society indeed.  But because of their lack of empathetic evolution (look up a deconstruction of the 36 Stratagems here — it’s also on Wikipedia) increasing sophistication led to diminishing returns, and they were easily captured by higher v-Meme, yet psychopathic foreign powers. Those powers took advantage of chemical substances that addressed the pathologies of the depression/low performance that the Authoritarian v-Meme counts on to establish control.  I’m referring to smoking opium, of course. At the same time, that fundamental culture, when mixed in with a little bit of Performance/Goal-Oriented v-Meme evolution stuff (Deng Xiaoping’s ‘black cat, white cat, doesn’t matter as long as it catches mice’) will, in the span of only about 40 years, made 76% of Chinese members of the middle class.

And, of course, we have our own issues in contemporary society with neurobiological hacks (sugar anyone?) that may yet bring us down.  Do the big comparison — in the US, now, only 50% fall under that measure of being in the middle class. More empathy and evolved individuality? Maybe.  More prosperity?  We’re on the backside.

Regarding evolution/sophistication — what would that mean as far as MHC?  MHC might record increasing complexity with an increase in bits, but what do bits in various places actually mean?  It’s a good question, and I’d argue that you could look at a very complex society with a lot of sophistication, and a lot more bits, yet still not understand why it might not be doing well, because the dynamic of creation of those bits would be poorly understood.

The nice thing about empathy and Conway’s Law is we have some deeper insight into the larger ‘Why’ of information creation, and can more positively construct social systems that give us the goods.

When it comes to AI, there’s also nothing wrong with coming up with an MHC score for predicting the potential development time for a particular AI algorithm.  But MHC still leverages the reinforcement/supervised/unsupervised learning paradigm that dominates thinking in AI.  Contrast that to the insight that knowledge structures give.  Algorithms of increasing complexity?  We’ve got that (well, sorta.)  Making the jump to developing strategies that capture individual experiences and the outcomes of independent agency, as well as complex heuristics?  Eh, not so much.  When I can call Apple Help and get the natural language processor to understand how I say the serial number off my Airport router, then I’ll start becoming more interested.

BTW, a tip of the hat to my friend, Hanzi Freinacht, high up in the Swiss Alps, writing books like The Listening Society, that got me started thinking about this.  Hanzi, there must be something in that goat’s milk you drink that makes you so smart in such an isolated environment.  😉

PS:  Thought some folks would find it funny that I’ve been calling a ‘definite integral’ a ‘direct integral‘ for some time now.  Please don’t send me back to Calc I!  Or make me plow through that Wikipedia post!