Fun Post — Heuristic, Empathetic Thinking isn’t just a Human Thing

Anyone can be a Rajasthani Taxi Cab Driver — including my son

Coming in over Facebook, I watched this amazing video of a human/elephant performance team led by Rene Casselly, from Germany. It is amazing not just in the tricks themselves, but the fact that the connection of inter-species sentience to create coordinated, goal-based heuristic behavior is stunning.

Some might say the elephants are trained through conditioning, but I’d argue that this isn’t the case. I’ll bet the elephants view the watermelons as salaries, just like humans. And the fact that the elephants can pursue a shared goal, complete with algorithmic motions, indicate a much higher level of group cognition between the humans and the elephants.

To finish the video, there’s also a little direct empathetic mirroring. Also fascinating. Highly recommended! Sentience is sentience is sentience, folks.

Linking the Four Pillars of Brain, Empathy, Social Structure and Knowledge

On a wave in Canada, May 2019

I’ve just returned from an awesome vacation with two of the best kayakers in the world — Benny Marr, and Tyler Bradt — who were running a clinic in Ontario for both mastering surfing big waves, as well as improving overall wellness and mindfulness through yoga practice. Both are awesome humans, as well as elite athletes (and kayakers, of course.) In my younger days, I had pretty good kayak game, but these guys are wildly next level.

What was as interesting was the fact that they are not just kayakers, but also truly world-class athletes. When I would flag in strength, one of the two would shoulder my boat, along with their own, and start running up the hill to the car, or the put-in, or whatever. I could barely keep up holding the paddles. And when I’d flag with my confidence, they’d shove my fat ass in the boat, help put my skirt on, and give me the requisite attaboys to go out there and continue the battle. As I told them “Can we actually get a walrus to surf?” The answer turned out to be “yes” — if you have two coaches like them.

Needless to say, if you’re a Class III-V boater, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough. We also ate awesome vegan food, and had some great philosophical discussions.

Three Tree Poses, May 2019

One of the things I was put on the spot to explain was this:

“Why do I really need the complexity in our Theory of Empathetic Evolution?”

When I got back home, I wrote the piece (slightly edited) that I sent to them below. It forced me to draw a meaningful table that shows how the Dots are Connected. When you stack neural function next to empathy, social structure and knowledge structure, you gain a ton of different system intervention leverage points where you can create meaningful change.

Here’s the table I came up with. Not perfect, but not bad.

The text is a little small, but you get the idea

So… for Tyler and Benny, this was my pitch for the book/blog —


Why should you put the requisite time into reading this book or my blog?  It’s not easy, it’s from a dude you met on the river, and it uses a bunch of big words and concepts (like value, or v-Memes) that you’ve likely never heard before, and almost no one else uses.

The main reason – it shows you how to construct a map for solving large, complex problems, and how you have to develop both your people, and your organizations to the level where they can a.) process knowledge of a given complexity, and make decisions when they have to, and b.) know when they don’t know shit, and either compensate or learn so they can win.  The book shows the linkages, so if you can’t leverage one of the items in a given column, you may be able to leverage another column to get at the same developmental outcome.

What our Theory of Empathetic Evolution covers is the connection between four columns that govern how humans know things and create perspective.  These four things are:

  1.  Brain Structure
  2. Expression of Empathy – how we connect
  3. Social Structure and their Value Sets – the structure of our connections and what values naturally emerge from that structure
  4. Knowledge Structure – the varying complexity of the knowledge of the different things humans know.

How do you use this – or really, how do you know an action you need to happen will actually succeed (or at least has a chance of success?  Probability plays a role, especially as complexity increases!)

The short version is that the people have to have the brains for it, the ability to connect, the right organization, and the right structure of knowledge.  If one of these is lacking, you should expect potential failure – or, more importantly, you should back up and develop the situation in that category so that you can have success.

Let’s look at a simple situation – a river trip where you’re the leader.  You say “watch me, and run this line.”  You peel out, and the other two people with you follow and make it.

From the matrix above, it means:

  1.  The people had fast enough brains to mirror your motions.  (Brain/Neural Structure)
  2. You were connected enough to them (and them to you) where they could mirror you. (Empathy Development)
  3. Your social structure was well-formed enough (a bunch of homeys where you’re the best boater) that the basic hierarchical structure worked well enough. (Social Structure)
  4. The knowledge of where to go (you pointed the line on the bank) was not so complex, nor did it require them to make any decisions, that you all nailed the line. (Knowledge Structure)

One can now do a deconstruction if that weren’t the case.  Let’s say you made the line, but your two buddies beatered (‘to beater’ is a colloquialism for blowing the move, and a ‘beater’ is someone who beaters 🙂 ) the drop.

  1.  Maybe the people didn’t have fast enough reactive skills to mirror your Big Move.
  2. Maybe you met them at the put-in, and not established enough rapport.
  3. Since you didn’t know them, you were really isolated individuals, not really a tribe, and certainly not a hierarchy where they respected your authority.
  4. You used hand signals they couldn’t interpret, or the sequence was too complex and their brains couldn’t hold on to the information in the short time you discussed the line at the put-in.

How would you fix this so you’d have a positive outcome the next time?  In the four categories, you can start to see how solutions emerge.

  1. You make those loser beaters practice their moves to speed up their reaction time.
  2. You run a couple of easier rivers with them so they know you are the resident badass and that following you is smart.
  3. You line up your signs so those beaters don’t misunderstand you.

You can ALSO see that there are higher complexity answers – and if you execute them, you will gain a much larger range of ability in your combined crew – not just the ability to run one drop.

  1.  You hang out enough with them so they know when you’re joking or not (rational empathy, Theory of Mind.)
  2. You make them practice prescribed moves so they have them in their toolkit, and when you tell them to do something, they can do it. (Authority-driven/Legalistic/Algorithmic Rules/processes.)
  3. You develop their ability to read water so they take the general rules you give them, and develop their own heuristics (rules of thumb) so they can gain reflective agency on their own abilities and run that rapid without watching you (Tyler/Benny can do that, but I can’t without more practice.)
  4. You paddle with those beaters so much, they’re your community, and they help you by giving you deep insight on being a beater, which helps the next time you show up at the put-in alone looking for someone to paddle with.

The book and blog connect in multiple and diverse ways those four columns.  What’s interesting is:

  1.  If you reflect on the deeper meaning of the four categories, you’ll likely find you already intuitively do these kinds of assessments for all sorts of situations.
  2. The book makes the modes of interactions EXPLICIT in a way that enables much more complex planning.  That’s really the purpose of it.  You go, assess a group AND the problem complexity, and then make a decision how the plan HAS to be structured to pull off the task.

So… the book ain’t that easy.  But it is the way you can make maps, that considers other people’s maps, to pull of really big things. 

This also illuminates the more complex figure shown below, which is explained in the book.

The older, likely more confusing depiction of the larger model

The OTHER cool thing that can happen, when you internalize enough of this, is to know when you’re on the receiving end of bullshit, as well as the degree of the bullshit. Take the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. Quinn does a solid job of contrasting the bottom of the above figure (Leavers are Tribal, Takers are Authoritarian/Legalists.)  But Quinn doesn’t give much headroom for the higher modes that count on self-authoring and heuristics.  So… Quinn gets a moderate bullshit score.  He’s relatively pure down in the lower v-Memes, but falls apart when you start talking about something like the ability of refugees to create new lives in a different country. But he can’t begin to discuss in any meaningful way EITHER of you two’s lives.  As Robert Kegan would say, both of you are profoundly self-authoring and self-transforming.

Contrast that to Sapiens and Yuval Harare, where he extolls the virtues of hierarchy, and conversations between the Little People is fingered as gossip.  “Gossip” is often how we build empathy with each other.  Big Bullshit score there.  But once again – once you know something about Harare personally – he goes away for three months every year in solitary just to meditate – you know something else is going on. To me, anyone who isolates themselves for three months a year is just out there.  It takes most of us a week in solitary to start losing it.  Empathy much? Eh, not so much.

And here’s a little preview insight/enlightenment – Authoritarians (which Harare most definitely is) all have poor consequential thinking abilities, which means that Homo Deus, which I haven’t listened to, is going to really painful when I queue it up in my audiobook stack that I listen to during bike rides, because everyone is always asking me about it. 

And needless to say, most books about the future are written by Authoritarians.  It doesn’t mean they’re all wrong, and maybe we’re fucked, but I’d still rather go down fighting.  That’s what my consequential thinking tells me.  It ain’t over ‘till it’s over – spoken by a true enlightened master – Yogi Berra.

As a practice exercise, though, of course, the theory is designed actually for “wicked problems”, you can now deconstruct Lars Holbek’s famous advice:

“Don’t fuck up… and don’t boat with bozos.”  J

Stay in touch and talk between you.  It’s gonna be fun when I finally see both of you again.

Hopefully this sheds some light on all of this, for those that were missing something. For my math friends, there’s a whole ‘other column to be written on how much of this is a meta-level Jacobean/normalization process for complex systems. But that will have to wait.

Leadership for Creativity Isn’t all Child’s Play

My favorite stall vendor, Sorong, Indonesia, December 2018

I’ve recently been on Twitter, attempting to understand how the dynamics of the medium, which are definitely different than Facebook, work. As such, I’ve picked up a few followers in the complex systems application community. All these seem to be in health care, which is interesting to me, as I’m mostly embedded in the generalized aerospace/AI community, and hadn’t thought much about complex systems in the context of health care. It’s obviously my problem of linking awareness, as I’ve written about diet pretty extensively, and how all this linked to a decline in the aggregate mind, so it’s obviously an oversight on my part.

One of my new followers posted the following article from MIT Sloan School of Management Review, titled Leadership Lessons from your Inner Child, by one of their instructors, Douglas A. Ready. It’s the standard stuff about how children are bold, take risks, and other such icks. It’s centered around the individual (egocentric) and almost needless to say, centers around a mythic view of the past. If you want to be creative, be as a child.

Another book espousing occasionally a similar philosophy is the best-selling book, The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle. In his book, he leads with a chapter about how creative young children are, in that they can build a taller spaghetti and marshmallow tower than some laundry list of executives, like lawyers and bank officials. I gave back the book, so please forgive my incorrect listing of professions. If we could just be like those kids, Coyle asserts, we’d be more creative, and better professionals.

Inevitably, advice like Coyle’s and Ready’s is enshrined in games that people are made to play at corporate trainings, and, unfortunately, design professor get-togethers as “icebreakers”. You’re given an assortment of random items, or a box of spaghetti, and told to go at it. Some people gleefully leap into the milieu, seizing their child mind because they’re what I call ‘puzzle people’, or alternately because that’s their actual stage of development. But you can’t dodge the social physics of this blog. Design professors that can’t build tall marshmallow towers, or can’t generate a cute group nickname, inevitably feel shame. You don’t just jump out of a status-based Legalistic/Authoritarian social structure because someone hands you a box of pasta.

When I read things like this, however, I’m busy pondering the deeper “Why” of the Matrix. Let’s get at the core of the fundamental validity question. If kids are supposedly so much better at leadership than those hospital executives, why don’t we let 6-year-olds run hospitals? Of course, this is a laughable idea, and not because I’m a traditionalist. We’re never going to get to run the experiment because people would DIE. What’s funny is how our brains have enshrined this myth of childhood creativity so deeply that people from MIT bring it up and preach it as gospel truth.

What it really shows is that we don’t understand creativity, even at an egocentric, individual level very well. And that we have some pretty deep cultural sidebars that lock in that lack of understanding. Our standard process of dealing with the ‘creative child’ myth is to let the nostalgic emotions flow while we’re daydreaming through the inevitable speech, not say anything against the dominant paradigm, and get back to work.

The deeper truth behind the ‘creative child’ myth is not all B.S., however. Children do possess a greater amount of neuroplasticity, that brain flexibility thing that means beliefs (and the meta-linear, incremental single solution sets that accompany them) are more easily overcome, and multi-solution thinking, with its meta-nonlinear characteristics is far more possible. Neuroplasticity comes mostly naturally to kids, but once we’re over the age of 25, it starts to decline, unless it is triggered by trauma, and what I call a grounding validity crisis. If you’ve been mapping yourself to single solution thinking forever, that doesn’t have much to do with reality, when you think you might die, it’s a wonder how creative you can get in order to avoid expiring.

Calling out this transition in individual neuroplasticity can be a good thing. But it still needs the larger adult processes of incorporation and scaffolding in order to be meaningful. Kids exist in what Ken Wilber called the Preconscious stage. This maps to a Spiral Dynamics level of Tribal Authoritarianism, with lots of magical thinking. Counting on adults who have personally evolved to what Wilber would call the Conscious stage to maintain the same level of neuroplasticity, if those same adults have a limited experience base and haven’t really grown empathetically, doesn’t happen. They’re used to being surrounded by people who look like them, figuratively or literally, and that lack of empathetic development means that their neuroplasticity is going to go into the toilet.

What it also means is that in order to get to some level of Wilber’s Post-conscious development stage, which requires self-awareness, means they’re going to have to wait until their mid-life crisis, or until someone they love gets hit by a bus. Not particularly valid methods for building egocentric creativity in your work place, if your needs for multi-solution thinking are more immediate.

I found the picture below in my Facebook feed, and in many ways, it is a.) deeply tragic, and b.) a great example of the stuck-in-lower-stages of development hell. The couple pictured likely wanted to impress their friends by telling them they took a plane trip, which is beyond their means. Instead, their photo of their superficial creativity has gone viral on the Internet, making them a laughingstock. (Maybe — maybe their intent was to fool someone like me and have an image go viral!)

From Facebook, 2019

How, then, do we as leaders, unlock real creativity? The answer is creating conditions that march up the Spiral developmentally. Safety matters, at the bottom, and to be fair, Daniel Coyle mentions this. But further up the developmental chain, the main thing that starts making a difference with creativity is an increase in personal agency. You have to trust yourself to make good decisions, and being given by leadership decision-making heuristics and processes where that agency matters. That experience of personal accomplishment can ground a person, and then make it far more possible to merge into a creative community and contribute. You’ll feel assured you know what you know. But you’ll also look out and realize that others might know stuff as well.

What then follows is a far more complex creative dance. When multiple people are involved, think of people exchanging ideas freely as throwing a ball back and forth, with no end in sight unless everyone can agree, or at least agree to disagree, on a final concept. That blending in the design space is highly meta-nonlinear, and I write about this extensively in this post. Be forewarned — it’s a bit of a deep, systems-goodness deep dive.

The short version is, though, that meta-nonlinear dynamics, naturally produce multiple solutions, with a little piece of everyone synergized as a whole when the group finally reaches conclusions. Because fundamentally, creativity, outside the ranks of flashes of genius, is inherently an emergent group process. When you couple this with noble purpose and meaning, also keyed to the developmental needs and place of the group, things will really take off. And you, as an empathetic leader, can facilitate that by setting up your social structure with more profound empathy.

And the more independently generated relationships you can help your people make, to build their empathetic capacity, the better off they’ll be. So put away the box of spaghetti, the Legos, or (heaven forbid) the Plasticine clay. Next time you’re working to stimulate creativity, crack open a nice bottle of wine and let people talk and get to know each other. Give them a task with deeper purpose, that maps to their ability to contribute and find meaning. Stop any inner urge you have to have your engineers jump on one foot while they brainstorm. They’ll appreciate you for it. They’re not children, after all.

P.S. Not wanting to get into a big discussion re: alcohol, because, well, it’s complicated — but alcohol is much more of a ‘We’ drug when used in moderation, than an ‘I’ drug. Something to think about, creativity-wise. There’s a reason for the old saying ‘when the pub closes, the revolution starts!’

Is Donald Trump a Manchurian Candidate?

Queen Anne Lowboy, photo Mike Beiser, April 2019 — about 200 hours for those that are curious

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently connected with the Intellectual Father of much of what I base my own work around — Mel Conway, of Conway’s Law fame. I found him on Twitter, interestingly enough. We’ve a had a lot of fun bouncing ideas off each other in the meantime. For me, it’s kind of a Bladerunner moment, where the android gets to meet his maker and ask him questions. Considering Mel’s advanced age, I hope he’s getting one of those “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood” moments.

Mel recently floated the idea of Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate type of persona, subject to hypnotic suggestion by a larger Russian psy-ops program. Well, maybe. But probably not. For those that don’t remember the cultural allusion, a Manchurian Candidate is a person brainwashed to do a foreign government’s bidding. The title comes from the eponymous novel about a Medal of Honor winner who almost gives the Presidency to the Communists.

Far more likely is that Donald Trump is just a garden-variety, super-rich narcissistic psychopath. And largely why we can’t seem to wrap our heads around Trump as an individual with a deep empathy disorder is because we, as a society, have such a poor understanding of how empathy disorders, as well as empathy in general works. The reason, as I’ve said in the past, we have such a poor understanding, is the structures we’ve set up to explore new knowledge– academic institutions– are empathy deprived in their fundamental social structure. They just don’t get empathy as a connecting force, because they don’t connect, and can’t conceive of it as an important dynamic. Check the link above to understand how egocentric academic understanding can be.

And when it comes to understanding disorders of empathy, what that means is the people that study what psychopathy is are very good at listing endless, fragmented characteristics of a given individual. But those same people in charge of our shared understanding are uniformly awful for understanding how these individuals work inside systems.

This matters greatly for the present moment, because the President of the United States is a narcissistic psychopath. I’m not the only person that’s said this (though I did call it early! 🙂 ) But what’s lacking, again, is how someone like a narcissistic psychopath operates inside a social system.

Two very important characteristics matter in understanding how narcissistic psychopaths operate. First is the primary emphasis on mirroring empathy, with the extremely short-term time- and spatial scales that dominate that mode. No one would deny that Donald Trump is fundamentally impulsive — all you have to do is look at his Twitter feed to understand exactly how impulsive he is. Just like The Joker in the movie The Dark Knight, Donald Trump is a dog chasing cars. He wouldn’t know what to do with one if he caught it. Look no further to the story of his transition team into the Presidency.

The second is delving deep cultural knowledge on how narcissistic psychopaths have been viewed in the past — the iconic image of The Vampire. Vampires are characterized by the following:

  1. Concerned to the exclusion of almost everything else regarding their personal appearance.
  2. Possessing no reflection in a mirror (indicating no profound internal definition of self.)
  3. Fear of daylight.

I’ve called the condition “collapsed egocentricism” — there is nothing else in the world of Donald Trump but Donald Trump and his desires. This lack of boundaries also directly links to a profound inability to make or maintain personal attachment. The end result of this is endless relational disruption of the social network in his reach, which, unfortunately extends out past his Cabinet, and to the rest of our nation.

The problem with all this is that Trump also tends not to respond well to anyone below him in titular authority. That means basically everyone in the United States. He IS President, after all. All here are beneath him.

That means he has to look outside of the country to find someone who he might consider a peer. That means other heads of state. And he’s naturally going to gravitate to people whose brains are wired like his. Kim Jong Oon, the head of North Korea, is probably the best (and most recent) example. The problem with all this is Trump is really only receptive to suggestion from other authoritarian heads of state, like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

The problem with having these folks as your operative Old Boys Club is that these folks aren’t stupid. Donald Trump got to his current status as President through an instinctive reading of media markets. Anyone denying his insight on how new media works needs to start adopting a performance-based ethos toward realizing that Trump was no accident, even if the currents of history favored his ascendancy. He had the one characteristic that mattered in the face of an ossified political system — the ability to use new media channels to turn the rage over neglect of a majority of the country economically into political support. That talent propelled him into the White House.

But Putin, and Xi are different animals. While both are most definitely authoritarians, both rose through myriad political Authority-driven hierarchies to become top dogs without either a.) landing in jail, or b.) getting killed. Donald’s been flying around on an airplane, making screwy business deals and whoring. These other two guys mean business. They may both be Authoritarians, and potentially narcissistic, but the circumstances they evolved in demanded far more sophistication for basic survival. Sophistication demanded they learned to control their darker impulses.

So when it comes to getting Trump to do what they want, they know how to manipulate someone with empathy mirroring distortion. Until, of course, something inside Trump’s brain starts squawking that they’re moving up in status above him. And then he threatens trade sanctions.

Or war. That’s the deep problem with all of this. One of the pathologies of the condition is called splitting. While the phenomenon is well described in infants, it is disordered thinking in a 70+ year old man. Referred to sometimes as ‘black and white thinking’ it is the sudden shift in thinking someone is your friend is now your enemy. This is hardly OK on the playground between six-year-olds. But one can see the peril in this among world leaders. Lots of people have made fun of Trump watching Fox News all day, and carrying on with the hosts. I’m different — that kind of news makes me happy. The last thing we need is for that guy to be more active.

Which then brings me full circle to Conway’s Manchurian Candidate hypothesis. It’s not that it might not be true. Those Russkies are an interesting bunch. But I’ve seen so much incompetence at elite levels in the last ten years, in all sorts of institutions, I’ve become convinced that there are few world-class players who could pull something like that off. Most folks are there through a combination of sophistication, suppression of ego, at least temporarily, and a good bit of luck. The last enlightened authoritarian I witnessed was Deng Xiaoping, and it was clear that empathetic evolution was taking place in his brain throughout his life. The fact that he got sent to prison by Mao and emerged alive is amazing.

But I’ve never favored any organized conspiracy when that same behavior could be explained with emergent dynamics. Donald Trump, as a relational disruptor/collapsed egocentric is prime for above-board manipulation. Being locked in with low-order empathetic functioning — dysfunctional mirroring is all that other world leaders need. Manchurian Candidate? More likely Vampire of New York.

P.S. For a little more lighthearted world-leader influence, this message from (ex) President Vicente Fox is awesome.

Unfortunately, using the logic from above, Trump isn’t likely to listen. Fox is out of office.

Why Humans Aren’t Getting Climate Change

Inside AJ Redhawk’s Teepee, Cochise County, AZ – March, 2019

I’ve lately discovered Twitter, after having dismissed a couple of years ago as a primarily Authoritarian value set format. 240 character fragments, blurted out to the world, didn’t inspire me as a mode for doing much besides asserting one’s viewpoint. I was wrong. Twitter actually has relatively amazing possibilities, and I’ve become convinced the short text length is actually an asset — not a liability. For intelligent people, it forces a conciseness that also requires building on others’ arguments. There’s only so many times you can type “This” and re-tweet someone else’s stuff.

And if you are high-conflict, or stupid, there’s only so many times you can write “You’re STOOPID.” You can follow me on Twitter if you’re so inclined. I’m Empathy Guru, or #PezeshkiCharles.

I have relatively few people I follow, and also relatively few followers. One of the ones I picked up was a friend of my chronic co-conspirator, Ryan Martens, Tom Higley. Tom got pegged with reading the MVP of my manuscript, and is also the founder of 10.10.10 — a serial entrepreneur/institutional connector looking at bringing people together to solve the world’s problems. They’re declared as a “wicked problem” meta-incubator, running workshops around these big questions.

Long story short — Tom’s feed throws up big questions, some that actually are longer than a Twitter comment. One of these today was ‘why don’t people care about global warming?’ The answer, of course, has to be grounded in understanding human empathetic development. Why? Everything we do has to go back to the brain, and how we connect and relate is what evolves that organ. “As we relate, so we think.” You can’t escape it.

Global warming is a sticky wicket, because, at some level, it is a long time-scale/spatial scale problem. Long temporal scale problems become problematic in people’s minds, as many people who have the actual free time to think about them — older people — are going to be dead by the time the excrement really hits the ventilator. Younger people are mired in the economic crisis of the time, and while they have the most to lose, they don’t have the luxury of thinking about it.

Spatial scales in the same way affect concern about global warming. When we’re suffering through an ice storm here in the U.S., it becomes almost impossible for people to conceive that maybe halfway across the world below the equator, a part of the world is suffering the worst heat wave they’ve ever seen, People’s brains just don’t work on that level, unless relationally they have friends who live where the heat wave is taking place. And if that place is someplace like the outer islands of Indonesia, it makes it doubly difficult. No one even has any sense where those places are on the globe.

And it’s worse than that. One of the more depressing exercises I’ve engaged in was to ground myself in people’s actual ignorance of the physicality of our planet. It can be tough, but if you have a hard time understanding where people are actually at, grab a clipboard, put a pen behind your ear, and walk around asking people the simple question: if gravity pulls down (few will deny this) why don’t people on the bottom of the Earth fall off?

Long temporal scales, and large spatial scales also mess with people’s sense of consequentiality. We’re happy to give enough money to buy a baby calf to Heifer Project for a poor kid in an ad in one of those benighted, and inevitably dark countries. Fragmented, interpersonal identification is something our brains fundamentally relate to, with only a little social evolution. Most of us don’t want poor children to starve.

We also understand things like ‘plant a tree in the rainforest’ — the rainforest, besides being a real thing, is a mythic icon after 40 years of campaigning. But getting how to change utility systems at home mystifies us. The hardcore campaigners are always happy to put solar panels on their roofs — and there’s nothing wrong with adding another layer of insulation. But to get people out of their box and connect with others with the goal of rearranging electrical supplies from their local utilities mystifies most. A few communities (Boulder comes to mind) are attempting to do something. But the list ends up being countable on one or two hands. An actual movement outside some place like Germany, where social cohesion AND agency are both strong, as well as a wicked performance mindset, is still elusive.

Current economics, and the income crisis gap affecting the middle class don’t help. Why? Empathetic development is measured in terms of temporal and spatial awareness, of course. But it is also grounded in energetics, meaning you have to have some free time to make and maintain those independently generated relationships. In order to get the masses involved and thinking rationally, they need to not be in a Survival-level crisis all the time. And far too many people are. You can’t run from the thermodynamics of the situation.

The short answer, then, is to fix global warming, we might focus on the well-being of a socially-supported middle class first. People are plenty smart, and if they possibly can participate, they’ll find a way. And then those emergent solutions will start popping up, at larger and larger, appropriate self-organizing scales. We can goose this along with smart technology and appropriate evangelization, of course. There’s nothing to be gained by NOT talking about AGW. It’s happening.

But if we don’t work concomitantly, aiming to expand people’s temporal, spatial and energetic scales, along with working on improving their consequentiality, then larger solutions will remain elusive. Until AGW really does burn folks, and creates that Survival Level Maximal Neuroplasticity crisis. Once you’re down there in the Survival Value Set, anything is indeed possible. But that ‘anything’ is as likely to be magical or authoritarian thinking, and those low empathy modes always result in a lot of people dying who are unfortunate to be in the Out-Group. Not desirable.

So far, from my perch on the Palouse, I’ve seen AGW affect places on the tails of the weather distribution in dramatic ways. Short version — storms nuke places beyond recognition. Puerto Rico and Paradise, CA are the exemplars, as well as Mexican Beach in Florida. The impacts are still small enough that absorption, and at some level, reconstruction are possible with development of those In-group/Out-group low empathy dynamics. But as the problem gets worse, the number of displaced people will grow. And humans are not known for sitting in one location and waiting to die. We can see some of this happening already with crop failures in Central America, which are driving migrant caravans. Larger cause-and-effect will happen. It will not be pretty.

There is no one solution. It is a wicked problem. But any solution that does not include stabilization of the people capable of peacefully thinking through the problem will fail. And then, all bets are off.

PS — though when I started writing this post, I didn’t realize it is Earth Day today! So — Happy Earth Day! Go out and share it with someone whom you can have a meaningful conversation with. Or help someone. Every little bit of personal development helps!

Quickie Post — The Netflix Success Strategy — Scaffolded Heuristics

The camp cassowary — not exactly the best pet, but this is West Papua, Indonesia, Dec. 2018

As usual, the headlines are incendiary — but the text of the actual strategy is exactly what our Theory of Empathetic Evolution would recommend. More agency and personal development, less rules, and elimination of empathetic disruptors. Netflix is famous for its ‘take as much vacation as you need’ policy, as well as encouraging high performance employees through taking care of them. From the article in Inc. magazine, by Justin Bariso:

In contrast, Kruse explains, Netflix asserts that a business should focus specifically on two things: 

1. Invest in hiring high-performance employees. 

2. Build and maintain a culture that rewards high performers and weeds out continuous, unimproved low performers. 

The result?

“Netflix leaders believe that responsible people–the people every company wants to hire–are not only worthy of freedom, they thrive on it,” Kruse continues. “Creating an environment where these individuals are not inhibited by myriad rules allows them to become the best version of themselves.”

In other words, instead of stifling their employees, Netflix uses emotional intelligence to inspire them.

The article’s real takeaway? Give your employees performance-based heuristics, with appropriately set goals, so they can adapt to changing circumstance, and you’ll win. Box them in with algorithms, and you’re on your way to business parthenogenesis. Which means early death. And nothing shows that this works like Netflix, which as the article states, has changed from a DVD delivery company, to a streaming company, to a content creation company.

And whenever you see that term ’emotional intelligence’ — remember that it’s used by people who haven’t pondered the systemic effects of empathy. That’s OK — they’re just getting started.

Housekeeping on the Reader’s Guide

Chiricahua NM, Arizona, March 2019

I’ve done a major overhaul on the Reader’s Guide, and unearthed many posts that were buried deep in the blog. There’s a lot of material here — and a lot that I thought was actually pretty good but had totally forgotten about.

I’m also working on some re-hashes of old posts to make them more read-able. I’ll likely do this over the next three months. So don’t all of the sudden expect the Squirrels in my head to vanish overnight.

I’ve also abandoned the idea that I’m going to actually rate and rank all the posts for readability. I may take this up in the future, but for the present, it’s not going to happen.

I did unearth a couple of posts I wrote a while back on Big Data that some of my collaborators might read. Here they are:

How Does Big Data Fit into the Scheme of Empathetic Evolution? Part 1

How Does Big Data Fit into the Scheme of Empathetic Evolution? Part 2

OK — onward!