Quickie Post – A Beautiful Memory, and well, Twitter

Buenos Aires, 2012, before the parade

I was thumbing through my photo collection last night when I came across this photo, taken (I believe) in October 2012. So many computer transfers have screwed up the dates on my photos, but I think that’s about right. There was a large parade in Buenos Aires, and the dancers and marchers had literally come from across Latin America. Folks from Bolivia, Peru, Chile — you name it. It was a mass of beautiful synchronized inclusive group activity, and everyone was having a good time, myself included. Heterogeneous age distribution, lots of connection, good food — the works. The US has so much to learn. We do public space interaction so poorly. Instead of carefree connection, we’ve got semi-automatic weapons. Sad!

I’ve been to 38+ countries (depending on how you count) and have fond memories of all of them. I’ll keep posting photos.

On to Twitter — short version, Twitter is one of the most fascinating research platforms out there. It will also make you totally crazy. You can reach all sorts of folks, but most people run their Twitter feed either as a member of the audience for entertainment, some kind of relay for views they like, or their own personal radio station. There’s a longer post on how Twitter is an amazing tool to understand people’s personal development.

So far, the only thread I’ve been involved with that a.) had numbers, and b.) involved consensus being reached (of the myriad issues facing the world,) was that every young man (no mention of women) should own a pig, raise it, kill it, and eat it as part of their personal development, or give up on bacon for the rest of their lives. Vegans and non-vegans seem to agree with this. I’m not quite sure that this is the bildung that my intellectual friends, Lene Andersen and Tomas Bjorkman had in mind. Plus, my read is that it would be very challenging to do in a 2nd floor walk-up in Manhattan. Or Stockholm. Note to readers — I was raised on a hobby farm, and have plenty of experience in this kind of lesson. I’m not so sold on it.

A small bright spot — I did find John Hagel’s work as an educational/change consultant for Deloitte on Twitter. John’s talk at the Singularity University confirmed my research techniques for divining techniques for high-performance organizations was/is fundamentally sound. The short answer? Teams of 5-15 members, with insights gained from Big Wave Surfers (in the ocean.) Not very far off from my own experience as an modestly-extreme kayaker myself, integrated into the Industrial Design Clinic. There is nothing like team-based extreme sports to teach the lessons of an evolved empathy. You have to read your friends and their situations quickly, and accurately, based on data, or someone could drown. That data-driven relational development translates well to signals and sensing in other environments. And as I’ve talked about before here, maybe all that hyper vigilance turned out to be beneficial after all.

John’s talk is here (he starts at 1:00) but this will likely vanish soon — in probably 3 days. There are a handful of practitioners on the leading edge who are convergent. I’m hoping to gather some of his more nuanced insights, as well as turn John to the Deep Code OS approach that I’ve developed, as his surface observations jibe very well with my own. What is nice is we do come at this from different spaces — John is corporate, mine is academic. He hasn’t answered my questions about his challenges yet, but I’m sure he’s had his share. At any rate, the video is worth the watch, if nothing else, for those that get this stuff to know the community is growing. Get it before it goes away.

By the way, I am working on a longer post about looking at organizational structures to solve problems sorted with a Cynefin filter. It’s a natural fit, with some unexpected insights. Stay tuned — it’s just a lot of work.

Quickie Post — Winning the Internet on the Electric Twitter Machine

My border collie, Mary, and my two boys, ca. 2002

Lately, I’ve been working on establishing a presence on Twitter. I had initially thought that Twitter, with its 240 character limit, was a toxic playground for trolls and collapsed Authoritarians, because of the inherent knowledge fragment nature of the medium.

I was wrong. Turns out Twitter is far more interesting than Facebook, that’s for sure. Facebook is the place where you get to find out what you’re friends have been holding back from their public personae. It’s like finding out that the quiet guy who never said anything, and you always thought well of, is actually a total asshole. Facebook is interesting in its own right, of course, but it has inherent problems. It’s a place where once you’re above some norm of decency (like realizing pederasty is abhorrent) people can find whatever set of norms they like in the broader world. And so become unencumbered from reality, or even the desired to maintain bonds within a physical community. And unfortunately, if you’re connected with them on Facebook, you’re likely connected with them in reality.

It’s not that the Electric Twitter Machine (term borrowed from one of my favorite political writers, Charles Pierce at Esquire) can’t turn into a hideous, dank swamp for all sorts of High Conflict Personalities. It can, of course. But it also offers a medium to walk along the edge of a very steep cliff, with a chain attached, and peer out either into the heavens, or the abyss. Think the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park, metaphorically speaking.

I’ve constrained myself to mostly professional discourse and had a fabulous time connecting with folks of like mind (like Conway’s Law author, Mel Conway), who want to make big-scale global change, as well as some truly funny one-liner writers. They’ve inspired me to start adding a little more humor in my feed. So far, this is my favorite existential quote, from Chief Chuck:

·Jul 30 As I watched the dog chasing his tail I thought “Dogs are easily amused”, then I realized I was watching the dog chasing his tail.

My recommendation is this: try it. Exercise self-control. And get back to me. It could be that 240 characters are perhaps the best way to build connections with people you’d otherwise have no access to yet invented. Everyone’s almost willing to give you 240 characters of time.

Quickie Post — David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs’

Enlightenment in the wilderness — Kelly Creek, in the Clearwater, with Hanzi’s new book, Nordic Ideology

I just finished listening to David Graeber’s recent work — actually, from an academic perspective, it’s pretty much a masterpiece — ‘Bullshit Jobs‘. Why is it a masterpiece? Well, because, for an academic book, it’s actually funny (and on a very serious subject.) Until you start crying. The book is also multi-level, looking at the specifics of Bullshit Jobs, as well as exploring the systemic issues. Graeber does not come from the social class that spawns classical academics. He subtly covers the basis of this, though you have to connect the dots to see that Graeber, the son of a printer, and actual, real-life activist, does not live in the Ivory Tower. He does give himself some labels — some anarcho-anti-capitalist — but mostly, he’s rational. And he thinks. And believes in independently generated, relational dynamics. Which is a good thing. Graeber is writing from a position of deep empathy.

The book starts by laying out the definition of a Bullshit Job — which is basically a job where the person doesn’t produce anything, and knows that their job produces nothing of benefit to larger society, or even their organization. There are five kinds of Bullshit Jobs — Flunky, Goon, Duct-taper, Taskmaster, and Box-Ticker — and places them in the context of the corporate hierarchy — necessary for destroying agency to produce an incapacity to function.

Graeber’s labels are extremely useful for spreading his ideas, and I like them. He calls the current system ‘managerial feudalism’, and it’s about right. What my work contributes (I agree with Graeber’s assessment of affairs on most everything, though he’s up on the top level of societal description in the Matrix) is that the real problem is the relational disruptive, empathetic devolution inflicted by the social structure is baked into the system. Of course, the bosses are sadomasochists. They have to at least have an edge of psychopathy to do what they do. And in relational systems, like rigid hierarchies, the various strategies to maintain isolation are necessary for maintaining the real goal — stasis of that rigid hierarchy, and control of the people in it. It’s not about the money. It’s a function of the social physics of the system. No one has to do any thinking, because the behavior is, given the resources and the information flow, fundamentally emergent.

And that emergence is why it’s going to be so hard to break. If you’re in a low-performance, status-driven hierarchy, the last thing you’re going to want is to minimize the number of your flunkies, and all the others. It’s not like you’re going to open your organization to the forensic accountants to see exactly how that money is being wasted– even if you’d make more money. How would you look? What would your status be? As shown in the clip above, it’s about sending a message.

If there’s a meta-conclusion from the point of this blog, which is really about creating high performance organizations, when you lard up your organization with people doing busywork, then you don’t leave any energy available for creativity — and thus you ensure stasis. You close those system boundaries so new information not only can’t take hold. It almost can’t get in. Which reinforces the value set that drives the creation of the social structure in the first place. Kings were supposed to reign forever. And as such, Graeber’s coining of the phrase ‘managerial feudalism’ is particularly apt.

Unfortunately, when you do this, you also ensure your extinction — it’s that parthenogenesis thing. For businesses, Geoffrey West in ‘Scale’ calculated this out at around 40 years lifespan. Societies? Not as clear. But with all things it’s evolve or die. Let’s hope Graeber’s more accessible message takes hold. Because (and trust me on this one) he’s got the information physics right. And those suckers don’t lie.

The Long View of Empathetic Evolution — Athens and Sparta, and our Stakes Involved

The Contessa, Semana Santa, Granada, Spain

I’ve been pulling together, at the behest of math professor Kevin Vixie, a 20 pager on the whole empathetic evolution grand pattern. I was asked by both him, and an editor we hired, to come up with a long-view example of evolution up the Spiral, for an organization.

Turns out that’s really tough. Geoffrey West, in Scale, documented the standard company life to be around 40 years, and with just a little thought, it appears he’s right. Clicking through the list of companies from my childhood, from Sears and Montgomery Ward, to the local Martings clothing store, it’s not hard to find examples. But companies don’t usually start at the bottom, and they almost never end up as a large, global holistic organization.

If you want a true long-term evolution of a social organization, one has to go to the various world cities. The story below is about Athens, Greece, as well as Sparta, their sometimes ally, but inevitable nemesis.

Before I turn you over to the story, the short version is that Athens and Sparta were historic rivals, with the Spartans, as is well known, specializing in warfare. Athens evolved its culture, with the first democracy, and while Sparta and Athens managed successfully to ally against the Persians, in the end, they turned on each other in the Peloponnesian Wars, to which the Spartans brought a new level of savagery to what had historically been ritualistic warfare.

Yet even though the Spartans conquered the Athenians, and devastated the material wealth of the Greek peninsula and islands for generations, Athens emerged triumphant, and is a vibrant world city. Sparta exists only in memory — its ruins next to its new incarnation, with a population of 35,000.

But that’s not the truly interesting part of the story. Athenian social evolution laid the groundwork for Greek and world culture for millennia, even though they were not triumphant in the first round. Once a people evolve, it is VERY difficult for total regression. That needs to be remembered in the backdrop of our own difficult times in the world today, with an apparent rise of fascism across the Western democracies. Empathetic thoughts are NOT so easily un-thunk. Evolutionary v-Memes are not banished so easily.

The case lesson of Sparta is also fascinating for those that think the psychopaths always win. Sparta created an initial culture that has been reified in the minds of absolutists over the millennia, and Nietzsche has been said to base his idea of the übermensch on his interpretation.

Yet the reality is that Spartan culture only dominated for a short historical period. It was constructed on punishment and disruptive attachment — young boys were starved, young girls were raised to taunt the young boys, and mothers were required after birth to surrender their infants to infanticidal judgment. And to top it all off, pederasty was also enshrined in the culture. Just the thing to generate increasing numbers of psychopaths, to the point where, from a systems perspective, they finally generated enough of them that the wheels came off the bus. Every organization has some contingent of psychopaths — but once they gain critical mass, you’re done. Enron, anyone?

There are many transferable lessons we need to learn here, especially about the metacognitive risks associated with traumatizing young people. I grieve for our current crisis at the border regarding asylum and childhood separations, as well as the crises we’ve seen in the inner cities regarding eviction of poor, predominantly minority children from their homes. These are deep traumas, and besides the lack of compassion it shows in our current system, there will be an unknown cost to be paid. We can look at the long history for why this is such a bad thing. For the ancient Greeks, it was a descent into genocidal warfare for generations that almost unraveled an amazing culture. Thomas Jefferson said it best:

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Here’s the excerpt:


It’s not easy to come up with a story that both shows, and contrasts the long-time development of all the value memes – especially in a company, when the average company life is, according to complex system scientist Geoffrey West, approximately 40 years.  Companies and their lives have been studied extensively, and different paradigms have been put forward by such luminaries as Roger Martin, former Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman College of Business.  Martin starts with magic, boils down to heuristics, and then the suits step in with increasingly algorithmic practice.  The end of the trajectory is a closed system that processes no new information, and naturally sets up authority-driven, legalistic hierarchies.  Who then proceed to last about 40 years, on average, says West.

But cities are different. Cities are fundamentally open systems, usually with indeterminate boundaries.  And what better city to look at as far as a continuing transformation of values, than Athens, Greece?  West also profiles Athens, and I’ve visited myself.  It is a mixed basket of cultures, with influences from every one of the compass points.  Athens is also one of the world’s oldest cities, and historical records indicate potential settlement 11 centuries BCE. Undoubtedly Tribal at the beginning, if one tracks through its art, architecture and political accomplishments as moving through multiple gods, authority-driven thinking, to the establishment of litigative justice through close-to-native son, Aeschylus, Athens is a great example of tracking up through the v-Memes.  At the core is the establishment of democracy in Athens, by Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy, in 508 BCE, along with the enormous step forward in agency and empathy that accompanied it.  This led to a flowering of culture never before seen, with all the well-recognized figures of classical literature front-and-center.

Yet empathy alone couldn’t monotonically save Athens from numerous downfalls through the ages. Most important would likely be the attack from Sparta during the Peloponnesian War, that led to the leveling of Athens and ascent of Sparta.

But such powerful v-Memes simply cannot be killed by one war, or a documented history of rise and fall as happened in the subsequent 2000 years.  Athens now sits, from a low of 4000 people, in the 18thcentury, to a prosperous city of over 3 million people, a polyglot of languages synthesized from being a world city, with influences from every corner of the planet.  

And what of its vanquishing force, Sparta?  Spartans were known for a rigid authoritarianism, and agoge, a particularly vicious and relentless form of training for all young boys and men, where they were even encouraged to fight amongst themselves to establish superiority.  Children were underfed, so hunger was never to be a problem in battle.  But even more profound was the Spartan practice of enshrined pederasty, wherein older warriors would take especially talented youths and, well, bugger them.  

Even the women and young girls were enlisted in maintaining the Authoritarian v-Meme, and worked to impede empathetic development of the males, through taunting and humiliating the boys doing exercise.  Spartan women did have an extremely egalitarian lot in society.  They were better fed than the males, and they functioned within their role as the child-bearing part of the system. They owned property, and they could initiate divorce. They would also participate in the practice of infant inspection, whereby women would bathe their new infant in wine, and present them to the Gerousia,  the Spartan council of elders that served as a functional oligarchy, who would then decide whether the child would be raised or not.  If not, the baby was thrown into a chasm on nearby Mt. Taygetos. So much for women’s core attachment behavior naturally generating more empathy than men.  

From everything we currently know about such practices in the modern age, there’s no question that such a regimen might produce exceptional warriors for a time.  But it also likely created more than its fair share of the empathy-disordered as well.  We have no real window into exactly how Spartan society ran, other than to know that it was strictly externally bounded.  Because it had to be – without strong constraints, the people, attachment disordered from birth, would likely have killed each other.  So while they might have been able to defeat Athens in the Peloponnesian War, in the end, they could not avoid the consequences of throwing empathetic development to the side.  One thing is also clear – Sparta is credited with discarding the more ritualistic warfare all the Greek city-states participated in, and instead implemented a scorched-earth form of conflict complete with atrocities, devastated countrysides, and a gross impoverishment of its involved peoples. Another example of the effects of anti-empathy, and the psychopathy that follows.  

Sparta as a power, no matter how romanticized it has become by classical philosophers and the popular media – Nietzsche based his ubermensch concept on the Spartans – was doomed.  We are a collective organism.  

And what remains of Sparta? It remains a smallish town, in the Laconian section of Greece, with a population of 35,000.  If you want to sentence yourself to a short-lived existence, destroy empathy.  You may win in the short run.  

Improv. Comedy and Empathy — How do Strategies Map to the Empathy Pyramid?

Nice Carnaval Parade

On a recent visit to Boise, ID, to visit some friends, I had the good fortune to have my wife stumble across a site for improvisational comedy (Improv. for short) that just happened to be hosting a workshop one of the free nights we had. Called Recycled Minds Comedy, they were holding their Level 2 training, open to the public. Taught by Jon Buffington, who sports 11 years of improv training, and organized by Sean Hancock, another award-winning performer, the title of the class was ‘Never Draw a Blank.’

Jon’s method involved five basic principles that could be applied in any improv. scene. These were (in no particular order — I didn’t take notes!)

  • Feeling
  • Matching
  • Observation
  • Opposition
  • Physicality

Jon went on to do an excellent job of teaching, integrating what was probably close to 20 diverse students, split about 60/40 men/women in rapid fire pacing in what’s known as ‘3 line improv.’ Given the technique (like ‘Feeling’) students were given a word, and then had to create together three coherent statements that created a scene. Some of these were absolutely hilarious. What was amazing though, was that virtually none of them really fell flat. Improv. students were given enough coaching and structure to create the connection between a given pair so that humor naturally emerged.

I’ve written before about how humor maps to the different parts of the brain, and can tell you much about the empathetic development of a person. What was amazing was that the five techniques Jon discussed fell perfectly into line with the Empathy Pyramid.

So here goes:

  • Matching => Mirroring Behaviors as a ladder to higher empathetic modes
  • Feeling => Emotional Empathy
  • Observation => Rational and potentially Conscious Empathy
  • Opposition => Anti-empathy
  • Physicality => Direct Mirroring

What was also interesting was Jon’s comments regarding the different empathetic modes. While not disparaging physicality, or mirroring for mirroring’s sake, he did say it was lower on the list than the best humor, which he said was observational. Slapstick can be fun, but it doesn’t deliver the deeper insight and nuanced, multiple-solution meaning that personal interpretation does.

There’s a lot more to unpack here, of course. One of the strengths of doing improv. with groups is that it gives them a shared experience for cementing educational processing, and as such, maps into the neurobiology of education I explain in this blog. It’s cheap — all you need is a room, a handful of words, and a great coach. There might need to be some up-front work for the types of subjects relevant to various audiences in a corporate training venue — but it would be as good a complement as any for a team-building exercise. Nothing wrong with loading the Dev. Team in a whitewater raft for the day. But this activity dovetails well.

One final comment — by creating directed synergy scripts, (like yes-and) improv. also offers a way to attenuate the behavior of high-conflict players. There’s a potential here for working through conflicts through good external forcing from the teaching authority. Jon demonstrated a profound ability to create a safe space for people to experiment. While it also was certainly true that the people who showed up wanted to be there, and were ‘all in’, the template was simple enough for everyone to have fun, while doing serious learning.

All in all, I did have a great time, even though I only watched. And I would highly recommend both Sean and Jon for real corporate paying gigs. It will be fun to watch the effort continue in a mid-size city like Boise, which is definitely on the move.

More on Trauma, and How the Internet Concentrates Value Memes/Sets

Booty Beer, Conor
(Pepsi, actually) from around 2013
Like father, like son — swimming on the Lochsa this spring

The two photos above are meant to make you laugh, as well as demonstrate a ritual both my boys, Braden and Conor, and I share whenever we take a swim out of our kayaks. The picture of Conor is from about seven or eight years ago, when he “beatered” (the techno/tribal term for screwing up a run through a set of rapids) and swam. I think the meaning of “swam” is self-evident. 🙂 You have to drink a booty beer — whose contents vary depending on your age. In that picture, Conor is drinking a Pepsi.

Some people think that rituals like this are silly. Well, sorta. This one has spread across the whitewater community, and it IS pretty funny, being at the take-out, drinking a beer from your wetsuit booty. But they also serve as a reason to trigger a laughing catharsis, especially if you’ve just had a bad swim. Everyone’s laughing, maybe a little at you, but mostly with you, because everyone knows that we’re all just in between swims.

And swimming in whitewater is NEVER really recommended, and you can drown. It doesn’t matter how bad you swim, though — you drink your beer like the rest of us. Why? We want you to both be healed, and remember — so you don’t fuck up again. We want you alive, and here.

I’ve been writing a lot about trauma lately, and its effects on social organizations, and self-similarly, individuals, mostly because it is extremely poorly understood by most organizational experts. As income gaps increase, and retrograde authoritarianism seems to be on the rise, these trends, for the most part, negatively affect people’s ability to continue on a path of personal growth (which then feeds directly into societal development, or really, rather, devolutionary empathetic revanchism). There are the immediate effects on the individual exposed to traumatic circumstance — flight, fright, and fight. But there are larger consequences.

The thing that is important to remember is that understanding these three things in the context of the larger meta-narratives of society are key. We can’t do larger scale strategizing toward fixing the desperate problems we have without accounting for their effects.

I remain a big fan of sweeping efforts that have been proven to work on aggregate societal development. One can read a book like Andersen’s and Bjorkman’s The Nordic Secret for a developed historical perspective of how the Scandinavian countries evolved from their peasant, agrarian states to the sophisticated social democracies they are today.

Yet understanding contemporary trauma is still vitally important. At some level, the Nordic countries started from a historic tabula rasa for their time. That is not what we are facing today. Our biggest problem is evolutionary backsliding, and a decline of empathetic development from a previous higher level. The rate of such backsliding has never been experienced in human society before — largely because the communication media to cause it did not exist. Before the Gutenberg press, you couldn’t even get ideas out there out all that weren’t wrapped in long, culturally grounded stories.

It was with this in mind I came across an amazing piece on Tortoise, a new web publication focused on larger, ‘slow’ stories. The piece in particular, Destroyer of Worlds, profiles the founding of 8chan, described in the piece as one of the darkest corners of the Internet.

From Nicky Woolf, former Guardian reporter who wrote the piece:

The content on 8chan is among the most offensive, violent and bigoted on the web. It became a sump for the most racist and misogynist of users – especially on the /pol/ board, where the most far-right political viewpoints collected. But in evaluating its behaviour, it is probably helpful to think of a chan site not as a collection of individual people but as some kind of many-headed trickster-god; a psychotic consciousness in its own right.

Fredrick Brennan, the founder of 8chan, is profiled. A victim of a horrible degenerative disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, known colloquially as ‘brittle bone disease’, he had broken his bones 120 times by the time he was 19 years old. His life had been confined to a wheelchair, which mean endless pain and boredom. As a result, he turned to the virtual world of computers as his primary connective outlet.

How this all works is a striking example of low-empathy, high emotional affect communication enabling v-Meme concentration. It IS a consciousness in its own right — and an anti-empathetic consciousness at that. Temporary boards, with anonymous commenting, allowed more and more extreme behavior designed to shock, which then attracted more psychopaths and empathy-disordered individuals. For those unfamiliar with the terminology used on this blog, think a mix of defective Tribalism and collapsed egocentric Authoritarianism. The end result was a stew that launched multiple mass murders, an example of what others have called the ‘funnel effect’ (notably Kenneth Stern in his book on the militia movement called A Force Upon the Plain.) What that means is you start out with a couple thousand kooks who ascribe to a reasonably extreme ideology, and then distill down different levels of kook-dom, until finally a mass murderer pops out of the end of the funnel.

Fredrick originally paints himself as a radical free speech activist — some higher moral principle governs his actions. But the deeper reality is he was a deep eugenics advocate. His pain was so great, especially during his teenage years — there’s no discussion of it, but his parents, who weren’t well off to begin with — assigned him in his motorized wheelchair to foster care at the age of 14. I don’t know the sequence of actions that led to that, but it couldn’t have been good, or decent. Why eugenics? He, like far too many in the U.S., entertained illusions of a Nazi super-race that would sweep the land, getting rid of people like him. They would be the ones to exterminate him, and put him out of his misery.

The author, Nicky Woolf, used the term psychotic to describe the festering stew. And while I can kind of see some of that 8chan type of behavior, the reality is that much of it is really psychopathic, empathy disordered relational disruption. What is also interesting is that with all psychopathy, there follows a predictable path for communities that have been infected with some certain critical mass. Initially, a community may start out with a mix of normal folks and psychopaths. If you believe Bill Eddy, founder of the High Conflict Institute, that ration of normal to high-conflict seems to be around 10:1. These numbers only make sense in relationship to ordinary communities. The Internet allows an entire population, existing out on the tails of every distribution imaginable, to find each other.

And over time, while the empathy disordered/relational disruptors may have a field day, if there is enough people in the community, those people (call them trolls, or whatever) become more and more isolated. Normal people just check out. But in somewhat rare circumstances, enabled by the Internet, they find enough of their own kind, where their strange, circuitous gaslighting logic makes sense enough to people there, the whole community converts over to a vampire colony. Everyone is nuts, but everyone thinks the same way, so it doesn’t matter.

And it’s not limited to contemporary societies, though it could also be argued that contemporary infrastructure facilitates it. Farley Mowat wrote about a very similar parallel situation in his unbelievably tragic books, People of the Deer, and The Desperate People, where one clan of a tribe mastered their emotional circumstances caused by their trauma, while one didn’t. In the end, though, the larger trauma — their loss of a primary food resource — won out, and those communities were both destroyed. So much for genetic evolutionary reasoning in these circumstances.

The short version of Fredrick’s story is he founded 8chan, made money, bailed to the Philippines, and got married. Love healed him, I think, or at least some version of healthy attachment, and now he no longer dreams of Final Solutions as a release from his pain. But others are still locked in their crazy worlds, connected to enough disordered grounding to maintain their delirious worldview. Pizzagate and Gamergate both started with 8chan, or other simulacra chan sites, as well as other terribly sad crimes, such as the New Zealand mosque mass murder.

Nicky Woolf gets what happened — and he’d get this blog as well. His words:

It is the structure of a chan site itself that radicalises people. “The other anonymous users are guiding what’s socially acceptable, and the more and more you post on there you’re being affected by what’s acceptable and that changes you. Maybe you start posting Nazi memes as a joke… but you start to absorb those beliefs as your own, eventually,” Brennan says. “Anonymity makes people reveal themselves, but because there are other anonymous users – not just one person in a black box – it also changes what they reveal.”

What’s he saying is simple — take collapsed egocentricism, and delete all the cultural sidebars, dial in some intense, isolated sexual self-pleasuring, add in the ability of people thinly naturally distributed as far as the crazy, but with the connective ability of the Internet, and this is what you get.

If there’s a larger point in all this, is that we can learn from these environments, by understanding a.) how trauma drives the people into these situations, where they find disturbing connection that their brains desperately need, and b.) by understanding the contrast between them and more healthy Internet bulletin boards. Internet BBs are less-than up to the par of empathetic workspaces. Authority-driven in nature, they don’t convey irony, a raised eyebrow, or a subtle smile. But they can be made worse.

If there’s an upshot to all this, it’s that these things exist because of emergent dynamics. And it helps to understand them. Trauma, and trauma recovery are key to battling their anti-empathetic dynamics.

And then, finally, never stop being kind, even if you can’t connect. One never knows the point of bifurcation into madness.

Seven Precepts of Empathy

Chiricahua Range — an Island Range in Southern Arizona

I’ve been working on book readability, and on the advice of Braden, Kevin and Ryan, I’ve been attempting to boil down the complexity of all my empathy work to seven, easily recallable precepts, or principles.

Here they are:

  1. As we relate, so we think.  And how we relate depends on empathy.
  2. Growing in empathy depends on a feeling of safety.
  3. Social structure, controlled by empathy, dictates how we shape and pattern the knowledge we create.
  4. How we think is characterized by how we structure knowledge – from fragments to connected thoughts, to guiding principles.  That practice feeds back to our own empathetic development.
  5. Different social structures and their varying levels of empathy grow or impede our personal development.
  6. All our solution paths to innovation emerge from social structure and empathy.
  7. Our empathetic development scales both our timelines and our sense of responsibility, and informs us when conflict is likely with others at different levels of development.

Thanks to Kate Raworth and her excellent book, Doughnut Economics, for the patterning example.

Feel free to leave comments or criticisms!