The Death of Geography

Desolation Canyon, Green River, Utah

I’m having a number of thoughts this morning that I think are important enough to get down, and not getting nearly enough (well, how about NO circulation) in the information dynamics of our society. I’ve written about the death of geography due to social media and the Internet as an organizing principle in society here, and the fact that geography gave us something resembling a statistically independent distribution of opinions. And that was a GOOD thing.

One thought I had not had was that distribution of opinions from physical geography was also likely to provide more grounding validity — or rather, searching for deeper truths, driven by our own data collection, outside our backyards. You tended to pay more attention to the world if the physical world mattered – a fancy way of saying if you could actually see and hear it. And while the changes with COVID certainly accelerated all this (think of the cocooning of the Pajama Class through services like Door Dash) it had been 30 years in coming. Due to things like the wage gap, and overwork, and disconnection from your neighbors, geography had already been dying a slow death in the context of our own minds.

And that’s a full spectrum assault on even things you might not like. If you even attempt to think how a service like 4chan or 8chan of the Dark Web, with its reprehensible content, was forced to physically locate in a backwater in the Philippines, one can see how the see-saw of the world is going. Geography is losing.

And when physical geography starts losing, this becomes increasingly problematic from a very visceral perspective. Humans are meant to live with, and see each other. It’s a physicality that is inescapable, at least from the perspective of human mental health. Our current set of proxies (from telephony to ZOOM) are unable to stimulate the cerebral cortex in anything but the smallest role-playing way. Robin Dunbar’s famous number says 150 +/- people (not discriminating in between empathy-derived relational types — externally defined vs. data-driven) and he’s probably right. But what happens when that number of meaningful relationships drops below that number? Do we all become virtual actors sequestered in memetic survival bands, scattered across the world? There are days, at least for me, that it seems that way. The people I exchange meaningful information and ideas with are in Montana, North Carolina, Sweden, and Italy. None of them (yet) are really connected to any of my network except through me.

What gets increasingly fascinating is how the whole COVID pandemic played into the death of geography, and the various tools that were used to accelerate the entire system toward control of the elites. Of course, there’s the obvious monetary energetic argument — a couple of trillion dollars got transferred out of the local small business bunch into operations like Amazon. And once you realize that human connection is important, then you can understand how absolutely ineffective mask mandates became a key component of that acceleration. We had been offering the inherent death of physicality with the Internet, and the statistical binning of opinions through the Pareto-like mechanisms I’ve discussed in this piece. But for psychopathic elites, it wasn’t enough. Masks themselves, as well as social distancing, are yet another attempt at destruction of geography. Masked faces are also anonymous faces, and the human brain loses another avenue to ground its own actions with empathy for others. The channel is blocked. And when that channel is blocked, especially with the gaslighting that has characterized all avenues of the pandemic, all sorts of magical thinking can ensue — like your children being the assassins of their grandparents. That meta-kind of magical thinking didn’t end well for the Aztecs, who believed people had to have their hearts cut out for the sun to come up, and it won’t end well for us either.

On a larger sociopolitical scale, we can see the actions of elites furthering this destructive path against human agency. As imperfect as the concept of Westphalian states may be (the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648), they are the source of shared national identity even here in the 21st century. Russia’s total invasion of Ukraine is both a dim view of the future, while at the same time being a throwback of 100 years. Had Putin ordered the annexation alone of the Donbas, filled primarily with people of native Russian descent, it might have firmed up the old ethnocentric order, and been shown as a calculated move on his part for both security and territorial expansion.

Defying battleground logic, Putin went for the whole enchilada and invaded Kyiv, with the intent of dissolution of Ukrainian identity. But instead of that happening, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed up on the Internet, clad in personal battle armor — a very physical presence indeed — as well as a suit, urging both arming oneself with a machine gun, and the creation of more social media, including TikTok videos about the situation in the Ukraine. Geography is dead until it isn’t — but how the merger can and will happen is still very much up for grabs.

I’ve been having some interesting conversations, with some very interesting people regarding increasing local sovereignty, focused on individual rights. The idea is that increasing local sovereignty, especially with respect to geographically local infrastructure, could serve as an empathy development ladder for local communities, instead of seeing flight of capital out of communities through larger forces.

I like it. It’s a good idea, and an attempt to claw back the destruction of geography as an organizing principle. Sooner or later, infrastructure has to have a physical layer, and as such, be buried in the ground, or something. One might also classify local food sourcing efforts as in the same category, if not quite the same meta-category. We buy food from farmers’ markets, and attempt to support those individuals contributing to the local health benefit. But it’s pretty limited. There’s only a small amount of land held in shared ownership (which is likely a good thing) and all these paths forward depend on evolving groups of communities toward planes of higher social development and responsibility. Or before long, you still end up with Montgomery Burns owning the local nuclear power plant.

As of today, against my own intuitive bias, Kyiv holds strong against the Russian invasion. There’s tons to say about how, if we were put in the same situation, immersed in the culture of individual disempowerment we are in the U.S., we might not expect the same outcomes as seen by Ukraine’s ferocious defense of their homeland. There’s a whole stack of things to write about there, including how progressive evolutionary ideas, like the empowerment of women, have been flipped on its head and used for endless attacks against others outside the liberal establishment. I think it’s important to recognize those, though, for the relationally disruptive strategies that they are. Whether we throw the baby out with the bathwater is still up in the air. The short hot take on the Ukraine situation is that independent agency and an empowered citizenship is holding its own against a much larger, conscripted servant army.

For those that follow me a little more closely — good news on my own Ukraine front. My son’s company runs a division in Kyiv, and everyone there is safe and sound.

I promise to write a little more about Ukraine and the war in a couple of days. I read about military affairs extensively, and have known about the corruption in the Russian army since forever. But it’s still fascinating to watch my own mind in believing that they would have wiped the floor with the Ukes in the first three days. Which didn’t happen. How we all are influenced by outside bias and both real information, and propaganda, is just fascinating — even those of us who believe we stand above the fray. We’re all in the Matrix, whether we like it or not.

Stay tuned.

Quickie Post — Downfall: The Case Against Boeing and the Takeover of Institutions by the Empathy Disordered

Ben and Braden, in the cockpit of the Dehavilland Beaver, Renton Field, WA

I watched the new Netflix documentary last night, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing . Full disclosure — I am an aerospace geek, and actually an aerospace engineer and professor. So there’s not much I didn’t know about the MCAS debacle that killed some 346 people in two separate airplane crashes. For those that don’t know the details about the 737MAX, and the addition of the automatic control system, initially hidden from the pilot and co-pilot in order to dodge extra simulation training, the documentary is a good start.

And just so you know, there is a lot of information left out that would likely only be of interest to a specialist, in either aerospace or memetics. The MCAS software was actually originally outsourced to India, and this is NOT to point a finger at an entire subcontinent. But the fact that the decision made in the US to send this thing to an Indian software job shop is also part of the problem. It would require deeper investigation to be sure, but my hunch is that in a more authoritarian culture, there would be no pushback to Boeing from the idea that the pilots should not be allowed agency in a crisis. The key thing you’ll walk from the documentary is how the emergency autopilot system was originally hidden from all pilots. So once it started going haywire, there was really nothing any pilot could do to stop the plane from engaging in the runaway behavior that caused both planes to crash.

And I’ll also ‘fess up. I work with Boeing, and have a ton of students at all levels in that company. So it’s hard to write about what’s happening to friends, who largely are not responsible for any of this.

Where the responsibility does lie was covered by me back in May, 2016, when I wrote about Boeing’s relocation to Chicago. Back then, it was James McNerney in charge for most of my observational period, though Dennis Muilenburg had shown up on the heels of McNerney’s retirement in July 2015. Much had been said, after McNerney’s chiefly financially driven takeover of Boeing, was that returning the leadership position of Boeing to someone like Muilenburg, who was a real “engineer”, would somehow remediate the problems that were showing up technically at Boeing.

Readers of this blog know that job title has little to do with empathy development level, and being CEO at Boeing was no different. In fact, the real change, as the documentary notes, had occurred with the acquisition of McDonnell Douglas by Boeing back in 1995. The nearest analogy I can come up with what happened when Boeing, a largely community-based and communitarian company (almost all of its facilities used to be based in the Puget Sound region) bought out McDonnell Douglas, chiefly a very authority-driven defense contractor was the same as what happened in the movie ‘Alien’, where the eponymous monster planted an egg in a crew member that later came gorily busting out of one of the crew members and attempting to kill everyone in the ship.

Building commercial aircraft inherently demands a high empathy structure organization, one with long organizational memory. Why? The part count in a modern-day jetliner can approach 3 million parts. And all those parts must work together, reliably, on basically a daily basis. No company is making any money if a plane is on the ground. So, absent regular maintenance cycles, that plane needs to be in the air almost constantly. And considering that those same planes are often flying over open water, or Greenland, it’s a zero-tolerance exercise. You can’t even count on small failures not ending catastrophically.

This is NOT the same as building military aircraft. Military aircraft are optimized for certain aspects of high performance, with frequent thorough maintenance cycles. Fly something like an F-22 for over eight hours, and it’s back in the shop for something. It’s just not the same game.

That means that any organization even wanting to get in the game of civil aviation has to have robust, duplex, high fidelity information transfer systems, both in design and operation. Or bad things happen. Such an organization is not going to do well in the face of Wall Street stock price games. And Boeing is the bellwether of how this is true.

There’s a whole post to be written about how many of our high-powered institutions have essentially been captured by the empathy-disordered, and I will get around to writing it. But this is not solely limited to the aerospace world. One can see similar relationally disruptive individuals, like Dr. Tony Fauci, displaying classic gaslighting behavior, and then immediately demanding actions in line with his brain wiring. Things like lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and masks are inherently relationally disruptive, on the same meta-platform as squelching of dissent in the Boeing Company, that led to catastrophic failures in design, that then led to loss of life.

But if there is a takeaway, it’s considering how relational disruptors got into those positions in the first place. All display a collapsed egocentricism — a focus on self-benefit, be it money, power or fame. Secondly, all support relationally disruptive policies, all justified in some kind of low-responsibility mode of public display. Watching the Netflix special, you can watch Muilenburg in the Congressional hearing, in a room packed with loved ones of the crash victims, nary shedding a tear, nor offering anything remotely like a confession or sign of remorse. Hardly different from Tony Fauci, yelling at Rand Paul about how COVID didn’t come from a lab, when he himself knew that he had been funding the very work that, at a minimum, led to the path to COVID, all the while declaring himself the truth itself.

And while it’s interesting to all of us, to out the larger villains in our societal dramas, what’s more interesting is understanding how these people ended up in those power positions at all. Muilenburg’s path is somewhat more opaque, though it is pretty clear he spent no time in any of the civilian aviation tracks. All his chops were gained along the path of Boeing’s defense business, where constant slippage of deadlines would require a certain mendacity and emotional aloofness to continue sucking down taxpayer dollars for programs far over budget and under performance. Fauci started his public career in the AIDS days, and there are videos I’ve watched of him telling the various news outlets that AIDS could be spread to family members just through association with homosexuals. Talk about relational disruption.

But I’d also argue that the reason for those people being there in the first place is because of our own lack of empathy development in the larger population. We as a society have no good models for fingering relational disruptors in the first place. In fact, even in light of obvious empathy-disordered behaviors like child masking in schools, most of the population says nothing. People like Muilenburg and Fauci can fit in far too easily, by telling convenient lies and reaping the benefits of their constant prevarication. And far too many people, even among the educated literati, are so lacking in their own development and self awareness that they believe them.

Are these problems due to one person? Or are they, as I maintain, a systems problem that emergently creates these types of issues in both product and policy? Considering that the Boeing 777X is having, if not similar problems, then similar meta-problems with its flight control systems, we’ve got a much larger problem — especially as complexity increases. We’re starting to see that these low empathy systems cannot produce products to satisfy our needs as we move into the future.

Because planes must obey the laws of physics — and part of those laws is the social physics of their creators. And like it or not — they’re the law.

Lessons for Scholars from the Songhai Empire

Conor, about 13, ski jumping. You should watch him now at 21

Hands down, my favorite recent podcast has to be Fall of Civilizations, put together by Paul M. M. Cooper. The episodes don’t come out that often (seems like he got rolling, but it turned into a twice-yearly deal) but they are just amazing. It’s almost like each one is a little book, or novella. And Paul has one of the dulcet, melancholy voices that’s perfectly evocative for his subject matter. I’ve listened to almost all of them, and each one is deeply insightful, and goes far to synthesize with the status quo on why things in a given empire fell apart.

Which is why the subject matter is so relevant today. In the U.S., we seem to be seized up with the idea that somehow our problems, as well as our opposition, are unique, or at least some incarnation of the devil. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are largely in the throes of a large scale revolution in human social dynamics, caused by the shift of timescales brought on by the Internet. As I discussed in this piece, what is truly new is the downshift of geography and proximity as the primary informational organizational principle in our society, due to the Internet. And the primary problems we face are NOT what the mainstream media would tell you — mis- and disinformation. So much of their critique is the fact that the reins of social control are slipping from their hands. The old playbook just doesn’t work.

And then there is the fact that the press is also memetically limited in how they tell their stories. Most of the current MSM seems to be innumerate as well — so the tools, agency and insight necessary to tell stories about how populations are moving around are beyond them. That’s why we get a story about one individual in a nation of 330 million people that’s supposed to move us to tears, as well as reinforce whatever the dominant narrative is. It happens on the Left and Right — and nothing could be more iconic than the ‘Q’ narrative. Most people, if confronted, would have no idea what the actual story is around ‘Q’ — and certainly it hasn’t changed anything by a microscopic fraction of actual politics. Yet extremes on both the Right and the Left are invested in the very idea, even though it’s far from representative of anything resembling a coherent social movement. And so it is amplified, by both supporters and detractors, mostly to show the other side is awful. I’ve written about this extensively here.

A nation that occupies so much of its collective mind with wild stories and superstition is not demonstrating memetically robust behavior, needless to say. And one of the worst exemplars, especially during the COVID pandemic, has been the behavior of our university system, who have elevated large groups of experts that mostly bully, but also manifest social phobia on a large scale about a virus that really certainly doesn’t affect their main demographic — students — at all, and really isn’t a big threat to its workforce either. It is true we have older faculty members, but if we would follow the script of the Great Barrington Declaration, we could manage that as well. Focus resources on the vulnerable. Sigh…

But the screaming and caterwauling across the academy does not bode well for long-term support by the public of the larger academic enterprise. You’d literally have to live under a rock to miss the direction of most of the dialogue, on sites like Twitter and elsewhere. Those in the laptop/ZOOM class intend to stay home and not do their jobs in person as long as they possibly can, while supported by “essential workers” who bring them food and goods from literally across the planet. Master/slave model, anyone?

And they’ll call those of us speaking out against the madness that’s driving this — the application of the various Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) all sorts of names, while denying the actual population’s needs, and conducting experiments that show the false efficacy of empathy disrupting interventions like masks. This goes as far as large ensembles of experiments on animal models like Syrian Golden Hamsters as proof that masks work. Even though they don’t. Clever minds (and academics are clever) can always pull something out of their hip pocket to justify their beliefs.

But it doesn’t stop what Scott Galloway, marketing prof. at NYU has called the “fist of stone coming for academia’s glass chin.” That punch will land.

That’s why it’s useful to consider things like Fall of Civilizations and the historical lessons of what happens when that fist does land.

And for that we might consider what happened in an empire I certainly did not know about — the Songhai Empire. The Songhai occupied a large part of West Africa, including the Niger River and environs, from about 1430-1592. The Wikipedia entry is not nearly as interesting nor detail-filled as Paul’s work, and I highly recommend the podcast. The major cities of the Songhai were the trading center of Gao, as well as the intellectual center of Timbuktu, known for its historic libraries full of African history. Timbuktu was a city of scholars, in many ways iconic and ahead of its time.

But when the empire came apart, and degenerated into smaller city-states, because of the development of the African/American slave trade, the locals rounded up the scholars and sold them into slavery. Cooper particularly notes this, without much reason. But I suspect (and this is my bias) it happened because the scholars were supported by the empire, and had alternately, as with the COVID majority crowd, sided with the elites in generating bullshit philosophy that did not help the people. And so when their time came — when the larger imperial mantle had vanished — the common folks knew what to do with those self-ordained elites. Off on a slave ship to a sugar plantation in the West Indies they went. You don’t sell into slavery people that are out there, helping everyone.

But there’s another part to the story — an earlier chapter involving one of the Emperors of the Songhai, Sunni Ali. Sunni Ali has a decidedly mixed picture in the history of the Songhai, alternately being praised by some as the greatest emperor (this is in the historical record) and founder of the empire, as well as being a cruel psychopath that really had it in for the scholarly community, which was centered around the city and libraries of Timbuktu. Sunni Ali invaded Timbuktu something like five times. The first time, Cooper details, and basically told all the scholars to leave the town by the following day, or he would put all the remainders to the sword. So most of the scholars packed their books and treasures, and hightailed it out of there. The thing about messing with scholars is we really can’t know the extent of Sunni Ali’s cruelty, because when you mess with people writing history, you’re not going to end up with a good look.

But there are still implications to read in between the lines. Let’s say Sunni Ali was indeed a psychopath. From other writing I’ve done on this blog, the percentage of psychopaths increase dramatically with a trauma-soaked society. Somehow, Sunni Ali got into his head, messed up though it may have been, that the scholars were the source of the problem. And once again, it’s a sign that walling yourself in your library, and likely producing philosophy that makes your patrons happy, is not the way to create reverence for your chosen passion. It becomes a numbers game about who’s going to knock on your door when the training wheels come off.

Modern scholars might reflect on their behavior during COVID, screaming for increased restrictions, for situations that never materialized, yet ended up projections of their own social phobias, and destroyed almost a whole arm of the economy. My advice has been simple — admit you’re wrong, and let’s get society going again. But that’s only recently being heeded, and the academic community is still largely on the wrong side of the science, and history on all of this.

Sword to the throat, or fist of stone to the glass chin, there’s a reason we have buried in our academic culture that commitment, in the face of adversity, to the real truth, as well as the public good. It’s a survival mechanism. And the fact that we have largely failed in that public mission with COVID does not bode well. I’d like to think there’s still time to get on the right side of both truth and history. But that time is running out — and just because academia controls the press now doesn’t mean people have no way of knowing their real, lived truth.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

The Canadian Trucking Strike, Background Values, and Grounding Validity

One street off the main drag, Montreal, Quebec, 2014

As I type this post, one of the momentous events of the COVID years is underway. It is hard to know the exact number, but over 70,000 trucks from across Canada are either driving to Ottawa, or already there, in protest of the endless mandates destroying people’s lives by the various federal and provincial agencies regarding management of the COVID pandemic.

It is a protest, and there are quite a few videos of people cheering the truckers on as they drive Trans-Canada 1 and other routes into the capital city. But it is not just a protest. It is what we used to call in the old-growth wars, an “action”. And actions were not just meant to create media. Actions have actual consequences in the Real World. In the case of the truckers, it’s shutting off literal lifelines of food and necessary goods into people’s households across Canada. That’s an action.

Most people live in peaceful oblivion of the complexity and synchronization of supply chains that make life in our modern societies possible. And even though “supply chain” is the new buzzword, most institutionalized workers (academics and government) have absolutely no clue about how anything ends up on their doorstep.

Interestingly enough, I have extensive experience with the sufferings of people who have to worry about supply chains, as well as trucks. I’ve had at least a ten year old relationship with PACCAR, through my graduates, who have sponsored numerous successful projects in the Industrial Design Clinic. One of the services I offer when people sponsor my students’ work is a form of corporate psychotherapy. When I call, I get a rundown on whatever the crisis du jour is. Trust that I know the background details of every crisis Boeing has had in the last 20 years. Mum’s the word, though.

The trucking protest (as someone who has planned protests) is particularly interesting, in that it’s not just a protest. It’s a civil action, and it’s made possible by something that was far less common even 30 years ago. Large semi trucks almost all have sleepers, which are self-contained units that sit behind the cab, and are often directly connected to the cockpit of the truck. They’re a little tight, but you can live in them — which means you can go to the bathroom. This is critical. So when the truckers say they intend to stay as long as it takes to get restrictions repealed and back to normal, it’s not an idle threat.

On top of that, there is simply no way for government to clear trucks out of a space, like they might automobiles or protestors. And even if they could, they’d have to recruit wrecker drivers, who very likely don’t share the same affinity the government might wish for. I can’t imagine that they’d find too many willing hands.

What does it mean for the pajama class, as well as the appalling leadership of Canada, to operate in such an air of oblivion to this reality? An example is in order. Over Christmas, I visited my sons in Reno, NV for two weeks. During that time, a record-setting blizzard settled in on Donner Pass, the primary path over the Sierras on I-80. Reno is an island city on the other side, and basically all food for Reno comes in by truck from northern California. In four days, virtually all the perishables (vegetables and meat) were gone. You were only going to make it by eating Oreo cookies (there was still a fair amount of processed food garbage.) But it wouldn’t take more than a couple of days for that to be gone as well.

That means, quite literally, that people will run out of food — not just in Ottawa, but across Canada. It is the apex of Elite Risk Minimization to ignore the truckers’ righteous demands.

The fact that the people of Canada (or the US) might only dimly understand the role of trucking in our modern economy really doesn’t matter. A large-scale truckers’ strike like this serves as a profound moment of grounding validity, where people living in their own, incorrect version of reality are about to find out that regardless of their belief that the world needs to be organized around the notion of COVID prevention (a canard I’ve written about before, in various forms) are now facing collapse. Isolated systems, like our own governments, can delude themselves that they really understand societal risks, while refusing to realize that their actions are driven by their own inability to face their own cowardice about their own deaths, all they want. But as the bubble floats away from the absolute truth — in this case, that we have a complex system of supplying goods and services necessary for survival, and there are people vital to that system that you’ve elected to punish — once you get too far, you will see grounding failure and arcing between the bubble and reality.

This is where Canada is today.

I’ve been particularly moved by some of the videos I’ve seen on Twitter (and it’s tough to move me — trust me.) Truckers very peaceably laying down the law on the loss of jobs through enforced government mandates, about the risks of their profession, and how they worked through the beginnings of COVID when we really didn’t know if COVID was deadly across all age cohorts. At the same time, some of them brought up the dismissal of unvaccinated health care workers, who faced the same challenges, and now are facing dismissal as well. It is beyond ungrateful. It is a societal crime. And especially in the light of what vaccines can, and cannot do. We are now down to the only real benefit of vaccines is reducing severity of infection, with little effect on spread in populations.

I’ve also been fascinated throughout the pandemic by the mismatch of government response to the stated cultural values of a given country. Countries whose v-Meme sets align with the citizenry have seen little overt conflict over measures. This includes those more evolved Communitarian v-Meme countries, like Sweden and Denmark, as well as in darker venues like narcissistic Authoritarian v-Meme China, where people really are OK with welding their neighbors into their apartments.

The more interesting cases have been surprises. I couldn’t believe that Canada would continue their measures as long as they had. I’ve spent serious time in Canada, and it really is true that Canadians are more friendly and helpful than their southern neighbors. So I guess it should come as no surprise that the truckers would show up and do what they’re doing, and be supported. Canadian’s baseline Communitarianism has programmed a code of egalitarian treatment and action into their DeepOS Meme-NA.

Another pathologically fascinating aspect of this strike is how it’s showing, once again, how broken our own media systems in the U.S. are. I’m writing this on Sunday, Jan. 30 in the morning. Trudeau has been evacuated out of Ottawa (probably on a helicopter) to a “safe space” in the US. This is what fallen dictators do when they lose their country. He’s issued no public response as of 10:30 AM PST. But the only place I can really learn anything is on Twitter. This profound flex of blue-collar public power isn’t covered on MSNBC or CNN (and no, I’m not going to exhaustively scan all the liberal outlets — you can do that if you’re bored.) But even Fox News has weak coverage. Make no mistake — this is a Western civilization-changing moment. And as this piece summarizes, regardless of the outlet, the popular press is locked into courting authority — be it Left or Right. About ten years ago, I started seeing the disparagement of the concept of “populism” — which used to be promoted as a prosocial value in the media. That is obviously no longer true.

It’s also memetically fascinating that Trudeau has whispered nary a world (at least I can’t find anything) about this crisis in his own country. Trudeau is the son of the Canadian icon Pierre Trudeau, and is an extreme example of dynastic authority- and popularity-driven politics as one can find. As we are busy learning the the U.S., dynastic politics do not serve modern societies well at all, especially large complex ones, Trudeau is behaving in the current circumstance like any deposed king. He obviously does not have the strength of character to admit that he was wrong, nor wade into the crowd of truckers outside the Canadian Parliament and make peace. Instead, we are likely to see a long, drawn-out crisis on the scale of food depletion (the truckers have said they’re ready to stay for over two weeks, and trust me, that’s more than enough time to empty stores.) The fact that a leader would put the entire well-being of his country at risk over COVID policy is emblematic of his lack of integrity, as well as the compactness of the bubble of his public health policy advisors. As I write this, I am literally gasping.

Mark my words — this is a civilization-changing moment. It’s not time to pop popcorn, or any such icks. It is time to watch. And you better believe that all the other petty tyrants that lead the Free World are watching as well. As goes Trudeau and Canada, go their own necks. That’s grounding validity for you. It pushes those collective government brains down into maximum neuroplasticity that we find in Survival v-Meme situations. My guess is that there will be strong provincial pressure from the individual ministers to walk this one back. But it is simply impossible to know what exactly is happening real-time because of the corruption of the news media.

But needless to say, my prayers and hopes are with the truckers.

Quickie Post — K.C. Holliday and The Experience Economy

High in the Pyrenees, Summer of 2000

Though there are times I question my time spent on Twitter (the pandemic exacerbates this because of a lack of social connection, so the opportunity cost of time spent is low, and that’s not a good thing) I’ve also connected with some truly exceptional individuals.

One of these is K.C. Holliday — a yoga master (I’ve projected the role of instructor on her, but I am not sure this is true!) who posts some of the most insightful memetic Tweets on Twitter. Billing herself as an ex-historian, and a movement specialist, K.C.’s insights cut like a knife through the bullshit associated with the COVID meta-crisis. If you’re on Twitter, you should follow her. Her Twitter handle is: @KC__Holliday.

Just a couple of days ago, K.C. accurately summed up the economic restrictions that are being waged on select businesses as a war on the “Experience” economy. I kinda knew that, but this framing is powerful, and memetic. If you just want material things, they map into the low v-Meme space associated with the institutional class, that has basically begged for extended COVID restrictions. Dubbed the ‘pajama class’ in the semi-popular media, it’s easy to get what you want. A big brown truck will essentially bring it to you.

But if you want and need human connection — characteristic of the higher, more empathetically demanding v-Memes, that require some version of developed empathy — then things like gyms, restaurants, travel and other venues are what help you find meaning in life. And these are the places that are taking the biggest economic hit.

As I’ve talked before about masks, this is really a memetic war going on in the world right now. I’ve shilled Michael Lind’s work before (still love it) but this conflict is really a no holds barred cage match between externally defined relational modes, and independently generated friendships. The externally defined folks have really held the power-high ground, if not the moral one. And the measures they desire to propagate are fundamentally relationally destructive, and even if applied unevenly, help their memetic cause of social relational breakdown. The independently defined folks are finding their footing — but they’ve mostly been stuck on the top level of the societal debate, arguing with the psychopaths on the other side, instead of dismissing their concerns outright, and moving on to the real destruction of empathy. I will say this is changing, but it’s been a long time coming — at least in changing the messaging. I do think a lot of folks on the side of social evolution realized it early on, but were simply too nice to call out the relational disruptors. It’s Go Time, Team Reality. Hit ’em where they hurt. None of this at this point in history is normal.

I’ve said masks will be the last thing the institutional class will give up, precisely because they deliver the emergent, insidious destructive force that helps their side of the memetic war. And that group will use the threat of death, from COVID, or against their enemies (of which I am one) of social isolation in their home communities for those that speak out. This is more powerful than one might realize. I highly recommend reading this Wikipedia post about Coventry, England. There are historic precedents here.

What’s fascinating are the pivots the externally defined relational folks have been making recently. It makes me predict that child masking and isolation will also be one of the last things to go. At least in the short term, the externally defined relationship groups are losing the battle against restaurants, though they are holding the line with crazy masking in gyms, in various states, as well as making travel such a hassle that folks will be resistant to going.

I don’t believe any of this is conscious — I really do believe that most of this is emergent behavior. But the damage to children will be real. It will make some hunk of them fearful of social interaction in the future, and certainly delay the majority from appropriate social maturity right now. The fact that there are state governments going along with it, and not banning masks on kids in schools, is truly wild, considering the evidence from across the world that this intervention is profoundly unnecessary.

K.C. keeps calling it out incisively and boldly in her Twitter feed, along with the occasional post of some wild series of yoga poses. I find that also interesting in that what’s she’s demonstrating is also a high level of mind/body integration, which is also a characteristic of a high developed empathy personality.

So, keep it up, K.C. You, and your intellectual clarity are an inspiration. Once more into the breach, dear friend, once more…

As Yogi Berra said so succinctly, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

For those interested in understanding how important experience is in education and agency/empathy development, there is this longish piece I’ve written on this here. It’s one of my better ones, and built on my experience in the Design Clinic.

Compendium of Past Posts — from 2018 – April 2020

Border Collie and Russian Wolfhound — the Great Game continues

Well, here you go! I’ll likely revisit this and edit some of the descriptions, but this isn’t a bad start. I graded all my COVID posts for your amusement. Some I got right. And some I sure didn’t!

Learning from Aztecs and Bon Vivants — Empathy in the Time of the Coronavirus

A look at the Aztecs, pandemics, and how trauma freezes societies and prevents new thinking.

Empathy in the Time of the Coronavirus — Circles of Rationality and Understanding Fear in America (VII)

All sorts of precariousness in society explored, and why people are reacting with such fear to COVID.  Dated, but still pretty good.

Quickie Post — Nuance in the Time of Coronavirus

Written at about the end of my period when I thought lockdowns would work and were a good idea.  This was a month into it – and nope, I didn’t get it all correct.  But history demands honesty.

Understanding the Dark Matter of the COVID-19 Pandemic — Why Detecting Asymptomatic Cases Matters

This piece was solid reasoning for the time – about asymptomatic spread.  But no one really investigated rates of asymptomatic -> asymptomatic, so we were left only with the fear component.  And we still have poor estimates of natural immunity.  I’d give this, in hindsight, a C+.

Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus — Rate Dynamics and the Maintenance of Health Care Workers (VI)

This piece looks at rate dynamics of COVID vs. other viruses, and how COVID got the jump on the health care profession.  History will likely show this piece as insightful for the containment stage of the pandemic (when it was written) but not good enough when COVID became widespread, and people started building immunity toward it without illness. B+

How We Know Masks Work – An Informatics Explainer

No apologies – good for the point in time it was written, but obviously incredibly wrong for the current level of knowledge.  As hard as it may be to believe, we were struggling to get anyone to wear a mask that wasn’t of Asian descent.  D+ for ignoring past research.

Empathy in the Time of the Coronavirus (V) — Watching the Authority-based Knowledge Structure at Work

Written in the context of the time, this one is still not bad – IF you change the circumstance regarding updating the knowledge used to make decisions.  OTOH – if I knew then what I know now.  B

Quickie Post — Why Trump Doesn’t Invoke the Defense Production Act as of Sunday AM

My criticisms of Trump hold up.  Even though he did turn out to be on the right side of the issue in hindsight.  B

Quickie Post — The DeepOS of the COVID-19 Epidemic – An Immunosuppressed Global Population

Nailed it.  I linked this early to our current dietary/obesity/metabolic syndrome crisis.  A

Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus (IV) — Understanding the Grim Statistics, and Root Cause of Hospital Failure

Still relevant and solid.  But here’s the other point – hospitals didn’t fail.  Some level of supply and demand, even in our messed up health care system, worked to create the right amount of capacity.  B+

Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus – Interlude (III)

A memory of a trip to tribal homelands in China.  Wonderful.  A

Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus (II) – What Societies are Capable of in Crisis

Deep-rooted value memes will dictate how societies react in crisis.  This piece is not nearly as hard on China and its chronic gaslighting of everyone else as it should be, but considering when it was written, it shows the power of understanding societal values as coordination mechanisms.  A-

Quickie Post — Why Guessing about Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases is so Hard

Small post – I’d give it a ‘B’.

Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus – Part I

Solid – set my brain up correctly for good long-term analysis.  For its place in time, it gets an A-.

Quickie Post — Drugs, Enlightenment, and Nazis (Oh My!)

Written at the beginning of interest in psychedelics as treatment for trauma.  My thinking has evolved on this a bit – I can now see some mechanisms where psychedelics might really help reset folks who are messed up. But this piece is still solid.

Fanciful Flights for a Sunday Morning – Gene vs. Meme Wars and does the Universe have a sense of humor?

Solid piece on how information is coded in living beings.

Dreamland — A Quickie Review

A trip back to my hometown and the opioid crisis.

Quickie Post — Young Prodigies Usually Do Not Turn into Paradigm-Shifting Geniuses

Solid post that explores young genius and potential knowledge structures – and why there’s got to be more than chess.

Making Ethical AI and Avoiding the Paperclip Maximizer Problem

Great post (one of my best) on how we shouldn’t believe everything that low v-Meme researchers tell us about how AI works.

Why do The Gods only Talk to Some of Us?

A great post that develops the idea of knowledge complexity around two axes. I also introduce the idea of a ‘hierarchy of responsibility’ as opposed to a ‘hierarchy of status.’  

More Societal Implications of the Obesity Epidemic — Insulin Resistance, Epigenetic Preloading and Obesity Showing Up in Mortality Stats

More dietary insight on how what we eat is literally killing our kids.

Space Aliens or Killer AI Robots? Which ones are gonna get us?

Writing about aliens and killer AI robots is a good way to understand the development of knowledge complexity.  A good one.

Raising Kids — the Empathetic Basics — The First Rule – Pay Attention

Principles I’ve applied to raising both my own kids.

Raising Kids — the Empathetic Basics – Introduction

The beginning of writing about child development.

Turning Correlation into Causation – How Deeper Knowledge and Insight is Generated

This is a good one – showing how validity grounding, relational structures, and appropriate scaffolding of concepts and theories all matter in actually figuring out whether two data sets are connected.  This piece was the start of a lot of my thinking on closed and open systems.

Understanding College Students’ Mental Health — Dr. Gregg Henriques

Gregg is a great top-level thinker, and his Tree of Knowledge is accessible for those without any interest in memetics.

Understanding The Deep Value of Values

Explains how values create different social structures.  This is one of my most forwarded posts for people attempting to understand how values matter in terms of knowledge structure.

Quickie Post — Republicans and Trump’s Impeachment

Some insight into the impeachment process and why the Republican Senate lined up behind Trump.  A raw authoritarian move. 

Why Humans Aren’t Getting Climate Change — Part 2

In this piece, I’m starting to figure out why the media is so broken, and how ordinary folks actually do care about the climate crisis.

Insights on Knowledge Structures, Malcolm Gladwell, and 10K hours

Understanding exactly why Malcolm Gladwell says 10K hours to mastery, and what knowledge structure it applies to is what this post is about.  As well as attempting to re-explain all my other knowledge structure work, and why most larger hunks of knowledge can be reconstructed from a basis set of structures.

The Nordic Secret — Book Review

A book review on the history of Bildung written by two of my favorite people/philosophers.

The Nordic Ideology — Book Review

A more how-to applications manual for the philosophy of metamodernism.  Also written by two of my favorite people/philosophers.  I can’t wait to see what these two produce at the end of their careers.

Hong Kong and the Deep Memetic Evolution of Protest

Tearing apart the Performance v-Meme forms of protests against the CCP in Hong Kong.  Utterly fascinating to watch how all forms of human interaction can evolve.

Why Must Academia Evolve?

A piece exploring the MIT Media Lab/Jeffrey Epstein incident, and how we must evolve academia to keep this kind of thing from happening over and over.

Wicked Problems — Understanding how the Amazon is Burning, and How to Save It

Attempting to understand and contextualize the numerous environmental crises happening in the Amazon and adjacent river systems, and figuring out who exactly is really causing the damage.  A blend of dissection, as well as my own observations from visiting Brazil.

Evolution’s Path – Greater Complexity and Coherence

A good piece – one of my first attempts at writing about how coherence (and the downstream paradigm of inter-agent coordination) was developing in my brain.  Some good examples.

Stopping Dystopia in its Tracks through Empathy

A roadmap on how to create more folks who think evolutionary thoughts – which are desperately needed now.

Quickie Post — Winning the Internet on the Electric Twitter Machine

Some brief thoughts on joining Twitter, and how it matters.

Quickie Post — David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs’

A review of the book. The damning figure — likely 38% of all jobs are Bullshit Jobs.

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

Why does raising untraumatized kids matter?  We can look at history, and see who lasted over the long haul.

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

Comedy is an empathy elevator, in more ways than are immediately obvious.  I explore these modalities in this piece.

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

Some solid thinking on differentiating psychosis from psychopathy, as well as how trauma keeps delivering relationally destructive outcomes.  

Seven Precepts of Empathy

How Do We Prepare for the Time when Rapid Change Happens?

My personal story of empathetic development, as well as how trauma has affected my own perspective.

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

I love elephants.  And this is what this post is about.

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

After an awesome week of big-wave surfing with some of the best in the world, I wrote this explainer to show how the different headings of social/knowledge/empathy/neural wiring really are connected.

Leadership for Creativity Isn’t all Child’s Play

Tearing apart the various ‘experts’ that are quick to go to the “child’s play” model for where creativity comes from.  Hint – it’s more complex than being a kid.

Is Donald Trump a Manchurian Candidate?

How a relational disruptor became the head of the most powerful country on Earth.

Why Humans Aren’t Getting Climate Change

Understanding temporal and spatial scaling in the context of having a planetful of humans grasp the concepts, and consequences of global warming.

Quickie Post — The Netflix Success Strategy — Scaffolded Heuristics

A nice, short piece on Netflix’s personal development strategy and emotional intelligence.

Housekeeping on the Reader’s Guide

What is Structural Memetics? And Why Does it Matter?

A bedrock piece on my blog, actually written to explain to the author of Conway’s Law, Mel Conway, how different social structures and their empathy levels create knowledge.  A must-read.

Closing the Doors on Disruptive Innovation and Bacterial Parthenogenesis

A review of David Quammen’s excellent book, The Tangled Tree, and how bacteria have a lot to teach us about both evolution and information transfer.

What is a V-Meme? And Why does it Matter?

Another explanatory post on one of the most oft-asked questions I get – what is a v-Meme?

Creating a We for an Evolving World – Empathetic Leadership Book – Refactor – and the First of Two Introductory Posts

An intro to my empathetic leadership book, and a takedown of appealing, yet fundamentally authority-based thinking in the social sciences.  If more social scientists read this post, and actually understood the implications (that most stuff in the social sciences is essentially made up and primed for confirmation bias) we might be able to fix that 50% irreproducibility rate in their journal articles.

Quickie Super-Geek Post — Why Different Relationships have Meta-linear or Meta-nonlinear characteristics, and how we can always learn a little from single-celled organisms

A preceding post on bacteria, and closed and open systems of information 

Memes are Persistent — Covington Catholic High vs. the Hebrew Israelites

Short version – tribal memes are tough to beat. Even modern ones.

Tales from the South Pacific — Empathy and Integration Lessons from West Papua, Indonesia

A trip report from a 3 week journey to West Papua with my son, Braden.  West Papua is one of the most remote countries on Earth, and let’s just say the different v-Memes are alive and well.

Quickie Post — On the (Kinda) Lighter Side — Nina Hartley and Free Speech

Is it subject matter or is it v-Meme conflict?  A short post looking at Nina Hartley, porn star and free-speech advocate.

Understanding Long-Scale (Geologic Time) Evolution of Empathy

A dive into both how empathy developed, as well as how my thinking on empathy developed.

I’m Not the Only Person Interested in Conway’s Law

A quick look at Tomas Tunguz’ work on Conway’s Law and Microsoft

Quickie Post — What does being a full professor really mean?

A review of academia after Associate Professor Donna Strickland’s Nobel Prize award.  Good for those that really don’t understand the sausage factory that is academia.

Social Coherence and V-Memes

Walking up the v-Memes, and how different societies organize themselves.  This is a fundamental post, and if you understand this one, others will make far more sense.

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

Goby Fish spitting sand (the video got removed) and how even lower intelligence animals organize along principles in the Spiral.

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

Psychopaths – they can cost you.  The basics of gaslighting.  A short piece.

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

Trump and Obamacare.  Oh boy.

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

Franz Kafka on balancing lying and world-creation with children.

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

A great post on virtual world creation, and avoiding narcissistic injury with your children.  Highly recommended – I send this one out a lot.

The Lighter Dark Side of Humor and Empathy — Anthony Jeselnik

Jeselnik is one of the edgiest comics out there.  Here’s a profile of how his humor works.

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

MHC is one of the fundamental advances in understanding knowledge complexity – and Michael Lamport Commons is a fan of my work (as I am of his.)  Here’s a start.

Quickie Post — The Silk Road

Down in the Tribal/Authoritarian space, things really are different.  A short post.

There are No Such Things as ‘Generations’ — or are there?

A review of how we evolve over the years.

The 36 Stratagems — or How Low Empathy is no Real Strategy in Today’s World

In case anyone wants to hold up China as leading the way to a more empathetic world – well, read this post.  And how things like the 36 Strategems are fundamentally antithetical to a just, complex world.

How Social Structure Arises from Empathy

A fundamental post on a question I get asked a lot.  Connectivity (simplex/duplex) and its degree arranges topology.  

Quickie Post — the Trans-Cultural Diabolical Power of Sugar

A review of an ad from Japan on sugar.

Finding a Cure for Cancer — or Why Physicists May Have the Upper Hand

Empiricism vs. a hunt for guiding principles.  The physicists have a huge head start when it comes to tool kit.

Quickie Post — Understanding the Dynamics of Cancer Requires a Social Structure that can Create Cellular Dynamics

A quick profile of one of my favorite diet folks – Dr. Jason Fung, and how most of the cancer (and nutrition) folks simply don’t have the social structure to figure out how cancer manifests.

Quickie Post — Just because the question of empathetic cetacean intelligence is really dead, doesn’t mean you can’t beat it…

Shorty post on pilot whales and other pod-functioning cetaceans.

Empathy, Longevity, and the Future of our Society

Why connection matters if you want to live a long time.  Kinda depressing in the middle of COVID..

Getting to Your Happy Place — Empathy, Design, Friendship, and Emojis

Animojis are cool.

Weight Loss by the v-Memes (V) – Cutting out Sugar — The Big Psycho-Social-Environmental Picture

Decision-Making in the New Year – Triple D-VRP

An attempt at making meaningful acronyms for my work.

Quickie Post — More Fun with Cetaceans and Humans

Quickie post on dolphins and humans hunting together.

 

 

 

A Compendium of Posts from the Last One and a Half Years

A sample of my #3 Plane Collection

I realized that I was actually forgetting I had written on a lot of subjects in the past year, and have created this page as a compendium of those posts — as well as a descriptor of what you might find if you read them.

The Catastrophic Consequences of Censorship and Narrowing the Memetic Narrative

A piece about the doctors working with Joe Biden, and how that maps to collapse of societies.

The Medical Literature, Memetic Cascades, and the Destruction of Real Science

Understanding how advanced search has biased research and suppressed alternate theories, even in medicine.

Kyle Rittenhouse, Empathy Loss and LARPing in Society

Understanding the disconnect between people’s projections of reality, and what happens when confronted with actual situations.

Masks and the Memetics of Knowledge Construction 

Understanding how masks map into simple knowledge structures, and that makes it possible for their rapid spread as an intervention.

Societal Attractors and Long Term Prosperity

A deep dive into potential social attractors and how the pandemic is driving outcomes.

Disqualifying Narratives and our Current Meta-Crisis

In-group/Out-group sorting because of simple narratives.

Quickie Post — Relational Abuse Dynamics and Getting Out of the Kimchee Hole

The dynamics of personal, and societal abuse relations.

Quickie Post — Universities and Elite Risk Minimization Memetic Cascades

What happens when elites congregate with people who are more elite?  More extreme cascade behavior.

Societal Narcissistic Inversion

What happens when an entire society is manipulated by narcissists to invert the parent-child relationship?

The Three Phases of Any Pandemic — Back to Basics

Containment, mitigation and endemicity are explained in the context of the pandemic.

Elite Risk Minimization and COVID — Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus (IX)

Why elites will allow others to suffer any inconvenience or pain in the context of reducing their COVID risk.

Information Fractalization and the Consequences to Society

How different viewpoints, combined with post-modernism, creates an atomic landscape of information that is almost impossible to make sense of.

Quickie Post — What does Endemic really mean?

A funny post about alligators, Florida, and endemicity.

The Structural Memetics of Masks

A detailed post about how masks have little to do with preventing viral spread, but lots to do with emergent behavior of social systems.

Back to Basics — Psychopaths in Relational Systems

Refresher on psychopaths and manipulation.

Quickie Post — Andrew Yang and the Re-ignition of Concerns for the Mentally Ill

Long-term dynamics of not taking care of our homeless people.

How do We Get Out of this Mess? (II) Complexity Development and Scaffolding Your Models

Why historical perspective is important in the light of modeling forecasts for COVID.

Quickie Post — Academia is Not Going to Lead Us Out of the Wilderness

How academia constantly gets empathy wrong – a short example.

Quickie Post – Dunning Kruger, Mental Model Weapons and V-Meme Amplification

Dunning-Kruger implications of the current COVID milieu.

The Endless Spin of the Dichotomous Society

A deep dive into how moderate voices get drowned out, or spun out, in our current high-conflict media environment.

How Do We Fix this Mess? (Part I)

How society is conspiring to pin the blame for the pandemic on the lowest status members – kids.

Quickie Post — Miasmas, Vampires and Memetic Persistence

Understanding how history can give us deep perspectives on destructive behavior through long-time mental models.

Quickie Post — Guilt vs. Shame

Societies and their organizational structures will dictate whether the citizens feel shame, or guilt.

Quickie Post — Buddhists and Vaccines in Bhutan

An example of correct v-Memetic framing for a vaccine campaign.

Default Modes and v-Memes

How relational modes translate to how we think.

Whack-A-Mole and our Theory of Empathetic Evolution

Fixing problems involves realizing their connectivity to other problems.

How Do We Know the Truth?

A long piece on truth and its complexity mapping to societal coordination.

The Relational Power of Uncles and Aunts

How recruiting mentors for our young people is one of the most valuable things we can do for their development.

The Great Filter and Development of Our Young People

Will our society survive long-term? Only if we develop our young people to manage complexity.

The Predictable Memetic Collapse of Contemporary Journalism

An explanation of the power dynamics in mainstream journalism.

Quickie Post — I’m Not the ONLY Scientist Worried about the Memetics of Scientific Social Structures

 A review of Avi Loeb’s (Chair of Astrophysics at Harvard) perspective on the decay and corruption in the scientific establishment.

Quickie Post — What Does the Funnel for Action Look Like?

How social networks move from just talking about affairs to actually doing something in the Real World.

Gamestop and the New Power Law Information Landscape

How the Gamestop stock run-up is another example of power law dynamics in our new information landscape.

Vaccines and the v-Memes

Examining how vaccines and their distribution map to different value sets.

The Memetics of Trump and the Patriot Movement

A long piece about self-organization and action over the Internet, and how that played out in the Jan. 6 riots.

A New Years Prayer for our Children

Discussing closed schools and their impacts on kids because of COVID.

Hillbilly Elegy and Transgenerational Trauma

A deconstruction of the movie, Hillbilly Elegy, and the metacognitive dynamics of rescue from dysfunctional families.

Politics and Empathy in the US – Post Election

Introducing Michael Lind’s work and how the Double Horseshoe accurately describes the memetic wars currently afoot.

Innumeracy and the Crisis in Memetic Understanding

Understanding how innumeracy is actually based on a lack of agency and empathy.

What’s the Bottom of the Knowledge Structure Stack Look Like? Dan Everett and the Pirahã

Mapping language structures of Amazon tribes as representations of temporal and spatial awareness.

Quickie Post — COVID’s potential to shove influenza to the side for this year

Viral displacement explained.

How Did We Get So Polarized? Memetic Power Law Dynamics

Introduction of how the Internet has dramatically altered the information landscape by creating statistically dependent distributions of opinions.

The Lords of Memetic War

How all the money we spend on political campaigns only further serves to divide us.

Boom Aero and the Memetic Promise of the Future

A hopeful example of positive synergy between science and engineering.

The Memetic Wars Have Truly Begun – Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus

The Great Barrington Declaration and attacks on its authors.

Quickie Post — Tim Ferriss and his Childhood Trauma Story

Tim Ferriss and his recent advocacy of psychedelics for fixing childhood trauma.

Quickie Post — Spool up the Hyperdrive re: Evolution

How different evolutionary paradigms map to empathetic development.

Quickie Post — COVID’s Balance between Seasonality and Sociality

Exploring how COVID spread balances between seasonality and sociality.

Back to Basics — Values Transfer into Intelligent Systems through Conway’s Law

How can we understand ourselves enough so that we transfer higher level values into our AI models.

The Social Dilemma – a Review

A review of the Netflix special on Facebook.

Quickie Post – Marketing vs. Sales

Looking at the difference between theory and praxis in persuading people to buy stuff.

Quickie Post — Julian Jaynes and the Development – and Regression — of Consciousness

Examining Julian Jaynes’ work in the context of psycho-social development of societies.

The Memetics of Conspiracies and Hanlon’s Razor

How explicit large-scale coordination occurs (or doesn’t) and how emergent dynamics play in seeing coordinated actions.

Quickie Post — The Guiding Principles of COVID boil down to one thing — Mucus

Understanding the role of mucus production in COVID symptom reduction and immunity.

The End of Pandemics, Or How Inherent Social Structure Governs Release of Populations

How pandemics end, and how social structure influences how long this takes.

Quickie Post — The Academic Argument for Morality Pills

Short piece on a “modest proposal” to give everyone a pill to make them “good”.

The Outlaw Ocean, Meatpacking Plants, and Modern-Day Slavery

A review of Ian Urbina’s work on high seas lawlessness, and how social systems drive this kind of behavior.

Science or Scientific Authority — Which do you choose?

A deep dive in the difference between believing in science, and actually practicing scientific thinking.

Sensemaking the U.S. COVID-19 Pandemic — Empathy in the Time of the Coronavirus (XI)

An early analysis of COVID spread.

Quickie Post – Information Density of the Biosphere – and What We’d Need to Create an Off-Planet Livable World

Thoughts on actually moving off the Earth in any meaningful way.

Quickie Post — Moore’s Law and Metalinearity

Moore’s law and disruptive innovation explained in the context of knowledge creation.

Interlude – Packing a Kitchen Box for Car Camping

Fun post on packing a kitchen box.

Believe Science? What Science Do You Want to Believe? Empathy in the Time of the Coronavirus (X)

Short- and long-term timescales in the creation of science.

Toxic Masculinity? The Saga of the Oil Platform Ursa

An exploration of current mental models on gender roles, lifted from my book.

Thoughts on the Current Crisis — How George Floyd’s Death Served as the Spark

On how our current ‘bubble creation’ is driving an inability to read and understand diverse constituencies in our society.

Ringing Global Society’s Bell — Potential Learnings from the COVID-19 Epidemic

Looking at societal resilience in the face of the COVID pandemic.

The Curious Case of the Fat Emperor — or How Not Understanding How to Merge Knowledge is Creating a Culture War

A profile of Ivor Cummins, one of the leading speakers regarding fixing nutrition in our society, as well as COVID amelioration.

The Catastrophic Consequences of Censorship and Narrowing the Memetic Narrative

Braden in the woods, 2002

One of the craziest pieces of media I’ve read lately was posted only a couple of days ago, in the very political and left-leaning website Politico. Titled Biden’s Twitter doc army turns on him, it goes on to describe the influence and potential conflict between the Biden administration and various members of the epi-Twitterati. What exactly this conflict is is hard to determine. Every single one of them is essentially a ZeroCOVID advocate. Most are full-on nutters. And some, like Peter Hotez and Leana Wen, are openly pathological.

The piece attempts to paint the administration voices as more reasonable, and the epi-Twitter voices as more strident, and that is likely the case. The list of actors are people who have, one way or another, called for censorship of voices not repeating the ZeroCOVID message, as well as either “soft-glove” laundry listing endless NPIs and vaccine/booster campaigns (Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University medical school) or calling directly for banishment/punishment/containment of people not following their advice (Leana Wen, CNN commentator.) Every single one of them is anti-democratic and mandate oriented. Not a single one of them has even posed a meaningful off-ramp for ending the pandemic, nor will they in the near future, until they sense their vampiric influence is on the wane.

At the same time I was reading this article, I was also listening to selected episodes of Paul M.M. Cooper’s Fall of Civilizations podcast. In his series, he marches down through history, across the globe, and through the ages of civilizational collapse. I’ve been interested in the Inca and Aztecs, so I listened to those episodes first. They are striking in their similarities about what causes societies to disintegrate. The Incas were fraught with fratricidal conflict for control, that spun out of failed inheritances and gave the pathological a leg up in achieving short-term consolidation, but long-term collapse when external forcing (in this case, the Spanish conquistadors) showed up with their better weapons and their own monomaniacal drives.

But once again, the Aztec story rang most true, at least from a pandemic perspective. The Aztec elite, headed by Moctezuma, had relied on their priest caste to inform them of the nature of the external threat, as well as what future actions should be taken. Cooper dispels many of the old myths of the Conquista regarding the Aztecs assuming that Cortes was held as some kind of deity. In fact, Cooper encyclopedicly documents that this was not the case — that Moctezuma had spies and runners observing Cortes, who would paint pictures of the Spanish ships and bring them back to Tenochtitlan. His priests simply could not make sense of any of it, because, of course, they had filled their own heads with distorted battle aims. The Aztecs so dominated the regional tribal battle space that they had moved away from killing neighboring tribes, and merely capturing them so they could be sacrificed on their pyramids. And I wrote in this last piece, they induced mass trauma in their own citizenry, keeping them in a state of both limbic fear and ecstasy, through daily human sacrifice on the pyramids to their Hummingbird War God, Huitzilopochtli.

The differences between Biden’s epi-Twitterati, and the Aztec high priests are vanishingly few. Both cadres sit in denial of obvious physical reality — the Aztecs, that the sun would rise whether they would kill anyone or not. They had an elaborate belief structure behind all of this — that a piece of everyone’s heart came from the sun god, and by returning that piece, lodged in the heart, back into the ether, the sun would continue to rise. Biden’s own chosen high priests sit with fragmented evidence of their non-pharmaceutical interventions in much the same way. Abundant evidence in the physical universe exists that masks don’t work, that models are obviously wrong, and that social distancing matters not a whit — look at the endless numbers of packed football games played that demonstrate no difference in pandemic behavior. Yet this group of frauds still chant the same songs, still hold up the same incantations and models, and insist that the crowds, and their leader, self-flagellate in their honor.

It all works, just like it worked for the Aztec priests, until the scaffolding all this nonsense is built on comes undone. For Moctezuma and his cadre, it was the arrival of Cortes. For us, it is the erosion of robustness of modern systems that keep the grocery stores full of food, and water and electricity arrive at the houses, or at least at the houses of the elites. And just like the Aztec priests could count on the hundreds of thousands of peasants and slaves to provide their every need, today’s priests, wearing their very non-ceremonial pajamas, can count on magical Visa cards, Amazon delivery, and Door Dash to bring to their door the literal riches of the modern world.

Such environments and the calls for censorship, inherently create a memetic narrowing of information flow. If you are locked in your house with your computer and your models, and the drivers of the vehicles bringing you your food present themselves masked, and with neatly wrapped packages, it’s easy to rationalize that you are championing the greater good. These magical spells, uh, computer models are really what is needed to keep the empire together, no? And if you are preserving the old in your society, in denial of death, and even go to the extreme of insinuating that people never should die, then you indeed are a holy man, or woman.

And how could you not convince yourself you are on a holy mission? If you are a high priest, you get to scream your beliefs from the pinnacle of the Pyramid of CNN, or next to St. Joy Ann Reid or Ellen — as exalted a position as exists in our modern society. The bullshit forms a self-reinforcing, narcissistic loop, which in turn creates in the high priests their own version of delirium. You don’t see the family restaurant down in the strip mall shut down, nor note the extra, older private vehicles now being used to deliver packages to you. That would be, shall we say, inconvenient.

You’re fundamentally ungrounded. I’ve talked about how ungrounded systems, which turn into what we call in system parlance, “floating ground”, suffer reality drift in this piece. It’s five years old, but still correct. If your distance from reality is too far, your civilization collapses. And as I mentioned above, there are a ton of examples of exactly that in the podcast referenced above.

Whole nations can become ungrounded — much to their citizens’ detriment. China was the one that foisted this lockdown garbage on all of us, through a dedicated gaslighting propaganda campaign, that featured video clips of people collapsing in the street from COVID, foggers in Tyvek suits, and apocryphal physician victims like Li Wenliang. It’s highly likely that Li Wenliang never even existed — his death was announced by a Beijing youth group known for fanatical devotion to the CCP, in the context of a group of pneumonia deaths in the Wuhan area — 29 in a population of 6 million. Yet he lives on with his own Wikipedia page. He is very likely not real. But he certainly is, in the minds of millions.

But by engaging in the campaign to foist shutdown of Western economies through extreme COVID countermeasures, including welding people into their apartments, the same memetic narrowing of information foisted on Western democracies has now infected the Chinese mainland.

Of course, ZeroCOVID is simply impossible in China, even with their rigid authoritarianism. And the end result is China, in order to save mianzi (面子), is now committed in their own country to a series of continuing lockdowns, as a promise to their citizenry, for containing an RNA virus that simply morphs into other forms as the calendar rolls along.

The idea that such measures might work in China (and ostensibly did work in Wuhan), while not working in modified form anywhere else, is farcical. My own father-in-law, who is Taiwanese and works in China, was trapped in quarantine in an apartment complex of 100K individuals for 2 weeks because of potential exposure during a visit to Guangzhou for a minor eye surgery. For those unfamiliar with Chinese geography, Guangzhou is a long way from Wuhan. Shanghai Disneyland shut all its visitors inside its gate and literally tested everyone when a COVID case was found.

And it just gets more socially disruptive. To even get into the country requires a quarantine of 2-3 weeks (it seems to change, and I’m not going to keep track of it). That is a powerful disincentive for many of the U.S. high tech firms, already tired of dealing with Chinese IP theft, for re-shoring their facilities, if not in the US, around other countries in the Pacific Rim, like Malaysia and Singapore. Chinese people have the expectation that the propaganda is true — that getting COVID is lethal, and that it is the government’s job to protect you against it. Most people misunderstand authoritarian societies, thinking somehow that it means the government ends up with no obligation to its citizenry. So, like it or not, because the CCP gaslit the world, they’ve now made their bed in a policy that denies physical possibility.

The idea that now, the Chinese government, because they are authoritarian, can do what they want is simply not true. Authoritarian societies, both explicitly, and inherently destroy agency in their populations. When you infantilize people, even to the point of expecting them to be slaves, their expectations may shrink. But they also harden in their victimhood. And it’s not pretty when the propaganda turns out to be wrong. Memetic narrowing also drives stepping backward in social evolution. And people go tribal very quickly, with the same incumbent lack of fear of violence or loss of life.

The result of this nonsense is countries like China (and likely Taiwan, and NZ and Australia) are locked in endless cycles of social disruption. China, through its actions, may have buried its culpability in the likely bioweapon lab leak that led to the pandemic. But memetic narrowing, and the simplistic narrative creation that is driven by constricting information supply, will come back to bite you — especially when entire societies, with literally billions of people are in play.

What has saved us now, and will save us if we manage to contain the authoritarian forces bellowing for censorship, is social media. All these alternate, and in the end, validated truths originated and were broadcast with social media. Are there problems with social media? Of course. But the example of China above is that once memetic narrowing takes hold, and even worse, whole societies accept what is a collapse of the truth, the fact that the sun demands human sacrifice in order to come up in the morning becomes the least of your problems. You devolve your population to the meta-structure of information in your broadcast bullshit. Differing views, even if they’re wrong, demand your society’s brain to work to reconcile them. And that’s almost always a good thing. Censorship immediately imposes a loss of information on a society that required those differing views to run itself, with a given population and sophistication. Killing that doesn’t work.

So here we are. From COVID origination, to lockdown, mask and vaccine efficiency, the only reason we have any hope of knowing the truth is social media. Remember that the next time someone demands social media be shut down. It’s not exposure to information that’s the problem. It’s the exact opposite.

The Medical Literature, Memetic Cascades, and the Destruction of Real Science

The Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain

I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately how most of the scientific literature has turned into hot garbage in the last 2 years, driven by COVID panic. Early on, especially in the mask debate, which was pretty much decreed to NOT work before the pandemic, there were all of the sudden a couple of key papers, as well as supporting papers posing mostly as literature review, aggregators, etc. that came out declaring “masks work!”

Early on, I found myself shaking my head, not so much in negative disbelief. More like I had a gnat in my ear — something was just kind of wrong with all of this. The first tip-off inevitably was the long list of authors attached to the various papers. Anyone that knows anything about academic collaborations knows that they take basically forever to establish, and then once on the move, an equivalent amount of forever to coordinate research, write the paper(s), do the back-and-forth of argumentation (people outside the academy simply have no idea how academics can pick nits to establish status over each other. You have to attend your share of faculty meetings to really get this) and then actually send the paper to the review process.

Papers like this one in the Lancet (an ostensibly ‘distinguished’ journal) are great exemplars of the utter nonsense that dominated early publication, and remains to this day. The authors declare no competing interest, but if anyone believes that scientists in Hong Kong are going to publish anything that goes against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) narrative need to have their head examined. These people got out early in front of the media wave (this paper was published in May 2020) and it’s far from the only paper claiming territory. Even looking at the author list for this bogus modeling paper causes anyone inside the academic sausage-making machine to blanch. How would such scientists on the list even find each other? And yes — I pulled the bios from the list — most are in AI/ML.

That stack of crazy led to even bigger stacks of crazy, including some extremely famous crazy like this paper, which purposed to aggregate all the bullshit being produced in the academic sausage factory. The author list for this paper is even MORE extreme in range than the various purely Hong Kong papers, primarily indicating that production of mask supporting literature is a bigger, and arguably a memetic problem keyed to how various academic brains work, than anything having to do with reality. Even the National Academy of Sciences got roped into this one. And yes — there are more arguably irrelevant Hong Kong-based authors on this paper. You can be sure they’re not going to sign on to anything contradicting the eminence-uber-alles views of the CCP. The mind reels. This paper, just according to The Google, has already been cited 264 times (and likely is still going up.) Once again, for those of us familiar with academic systems, both the coordination, and the number of citations post-publication, are utterly insane for something like masking, which prima facie really doesn’t have much hope of working.

I would also note that if you read the list, most importantly, the scientists on this list, producing most of this bullshit, have gone on to be key commentators on COVID, exclusively on the side of socially destructive, agency-destroying NPIs, often surfing the front of the wave of popular opinion, because it’s so obvious, from a grounding validity perspective, that the NPIs don’t work. And as far as long-term integrity, I’ve heard no apologies from this crowd, other than more doubling down on the nonsense that is basically destroying people’s lives around the world, while having no effect on COVID whatsoever. Virus gonna virus.

What’s going on?

One of the things that I started doing myself (here is a confession of sins) was subscribe to MedPage Today — a news aggregator for the medical community, that while not exclusively covering COVID, has probably devoted about 80% of its coverage to blurbs regarding COVID research and status checking around the world. It’s been very convenient — there it is with my morning coffee — to read up on whatever the latest COVID research is. MedPage Today does not screen itself to be boring, and often will reproduce histrionic pronouncements from the various researchers. It also will announce pre-prints not yet finished with review, which is interesting for a scientific publication. I am not one of those scientists that will totally die on that hill of peer review — it has its own unique set of problems on how papers are adjudicated, as well as with work that has any cross-disciplinary boundary implications. But it’s the best we’ve got now, and those hordes of graduate students diligently poring through papers assigned by them from their advisors do add some value.

What I do know about MedPage Today is that it allows release of information into the meme sphere far more quickly than anytime in the past — likely by two, or potentially three orders of magnitude. Historically, when I published my own fundamental work at the beginning of my career, on chaos theory and fractals, getting a paper through to publication was truly a herculean task. Review took at least six months, and by the time you got the draftsperson to do the figures, edited the text, resolved all comments, you were lucky to get your paper published in less than two years.

And after you published your precious gem — well then people (and other graduate students) had to find it in the library stacks, read it, and potentially incorporate the findings in their own work. It was ALL SLOW.

What’s the implication of slow? Though not guaranteed, there was a far greater potential of statistical independence in the conclusion. And even if it built on prior work, the timescales were such that the potential for confirmation bias stacking were greatly minimized. The information system simply didn’t allow it. Yes, we had various rock stars and such, but you had to go to that key conference, and argue with a bunch of other academics. The time scales were long, and the work benefited.

None of this is true anymore. Pre-printed work is sensationalized, and researchers in the various fields can curate results quickly that fuel their own confirmation bias. This turns the work far from any independence of thought, or search for nuance, and allows geometric/Pareto stacking of results — not unlike what we’ve seen in politics! Worse, it draws people inside the COVID research bubble who are hunting for status. One can almost generalize this as a social/collective assault on reason along the lines of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. If you get your work tied in quickly into a simpler, less complex knowledge structure, it’s far more likely you’ll win both the Researcher Internet, as well as the Public Relations machine. Your simpler explanations are more viral, and memetically replicate far more rapidly than more nuanced versions. But they’ll come out of the social network limbic centers, and not surprisingly drive more fear and rancor on a hot-button issue like COVID, than reality.

I wrote about this around a year ago in this piece on the triumvirate of Drs. Bhattacharya, Kulldorff, and Gupta. These three august scientists, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, got double-bushwhacked by both their professional communities, as well as the Medium paper propagated by Tomas Pueyo and his “hammer and dance” nonsense. The mismatch in timescales created deep memetic conflicts I talk about here. Why do the memetics matter? Because once these deep currents are tapped, you don’t need to get on the phone and organize. The behavior of dichotomous limbic attack, attack, and attack becomes emergent. Nuance and multiple solution thinking get lost. And the press, already aligned with limbic response and spreading terror, having long ago lost their cultural mission of speaking truth to power, lined up behind the confirmation bias crowd. Dr. Kulldorff, a preeminent Harvard faculty member, was even banned from Twitter for going against the limbic crowd.

What’s the upshot of all of this? Short timescales in information systems like MedPage Today lead to Pareto cascades, statistical dependence and confirmation bias in work, and poorly thought-out belief systems that cater to the needs of those in power. Displacing those long slow days in the library, Internet search allows researchers almost instantaneous access to confirmation-bias-accelerating work. And the various citation indices create even more Pareto amplification. Inevitably, the entire system is biased toward producing statistically dependent, shoddy work. And it has.

At some level, other scientists are recognizing the problem. But it’s incorrectly framed, and is very likely to make things worse. More data mining, which will likely make researcher bias worse, not better. People stuck in status-driven systems are far more likely to use these tools to create even more elite opinion — even if it’s wrong.

This is not a simple problem. But grandma had the best advice in all of this — don’t be jumping’ to conclusions, son. That’s what gets you into trouble.

Kyle Rittenhouse, Empathy Loss and LARPing in Society

Grave Peak, Clearwater NF, ID

Preface: Because this is such a hot-button issue, I want to start this piece with a disclaimer. Regardless of the nuance I will exhibit in this piece, the whole idea of bringing any gun — and especially a long gun — to a protest is wrong. Ask any LEO how they react when they know a long gun (regardless of semi-auto or auto characteristics) is in play in any situation. I’ve had the privilege over my career of teaching numerous Special Forces/Special Operations returning students over the years, and they will gladly tell you how the scale evolves when any real weapon (and a long gun is a real weapon) is involved in a situation. ‘Nuf said.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the then- 17 year old (he’s now 18) charged with a variety of murder and attempted charges in the Kenosha riots surrounding the protests regarding the shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of police officers in Kenosha, WI. The actual call was for dealing with a domestic violence incident where Jacob Blake had already been forbidden to be present with a restraining order. I highly recommend reading the various accounts of violence against African-American men that have been the nexus of the Black Lives Matters protests. Why? Because the hindsight reality was that there were a range of conditions, from total innocence of the victims (like George Floyd) to far more nuanced, high-conflict cases where alternately the system either worked, or failed.

That’s not the point of this piece.

The question confronting us is the deeper “why” of why Kyle Rittenhouse showed up at the Kenosha protests in the first place.

Once again, I’m not interested in arguing white supremacy, misguided youth, or any of the other standard reasons given for why a 17 year old showed up, crossing state lines or not, with a long gun in what was obviously going to be a chaotic, crazy situation. The reason that such an argument is uninteresting to me is that implies a 17 year old is somehow conscious and deliberate. And any adult working with a cohort of 17 year olds knows how utterly ridiculous such a statement is. There are rare exceptions of 17-year-olds having the ability to conceptualize abstraction of an unfamiliar situation in a way that might map to reality. But almost always, for a 17 year old, they would have had to directly experience a given event in order to engage in that level of projection. I found no documentation that Rittenhouse had attended prior riots, so it’s very likely he was a “one and done” candidate.

And as a “one and done” actor, he also likely had no prior validity grounding experience of being in a circumstance of a riot, armed with any weapon. I’ve been in numbers of demonstrations myself, and if you’ve done any protesting, either things are relatively homogeneous, or they’re fractious. And that fractiousness can turn into chaos literally in seconds. One minute, people are chanting some pithy saying about their issue. The next, someone’s swinging a board at your head, and everything around you is literally going to hell. You can find your own riot videos to watch, but it’s the canonical pattern.

The one truly fascinating thing about Kyle Rittenhouse’s experience was that it didn’t take very long for the real High Conflict actors to zoom in on Rittenhouse and his gun. Rittenhouse didn’t shoot any POCs — but he did shoot three white guys, and killed two. One is particularly notable — Joseph Rosenbaum was an obvious psychopath. Convicted of multiple child rape incidents at 17, that’s classic psychopath territory. If you think that dude was a committed race activist, well, you can think what you want. Like moths to a flame, High Conflict individuals are going to find these types of scenarios because it’s what they do. And yeah, they’re engaged in their own dissociated reality. But they also have no constraint in using real violence — which grounds the larger situation, intentionally or not.

I’ve also discussed the idea of “kayfabe” — the pre-planning of pro wrestling events, which so accurately describes our current state of politics. For a real take-down of kayfabe, this piece is amazing. The riots around Jacob Blake, a far more guilty perp. than George Floyd, basically changed nothing — if there was any social reform that flowed from any of it, its effects were only indirect, through election/loss of office of various politicians.

But kayfabe does something — it creates venues for self-constructed Live Action Role Playing Games, otherwise known as LARPs. Most people have no idea what a LARP is — but the movement has quite a few participants. Most are either war-gamers, or the Society for Creative Anachronism folks. And these people are serious — Tony Horwitz’s book, Confederates in the Attic, which looks at the Civil War re-enactor community, still holds up over 20 years after it was published.

I don’t have a problem with actual LARPing communities. You get done with your jousting festival, hop in your Dodge Neon, and stop off at the 7/11 for a Slushie for the road. People need hobbies, and I’m all down for people building stuff with their hands (uniforms included) and sharing information with other passionate re-enactors. In fact, as long as you don’t depart too far from the script, I’d argue it’s exactly an empathy-building exercise. You gain agency through creating stuff, learn a ton of information about a historical era, and go visit other actual humans and, well, hang out and eat hot dogs. Or whatever. We need more of that.

The problem is that with the increasing fragmentation we’re seeing in our communities, the LARP concept is being recreated — on the Internet, especially, but more importantly, in people’s head. The most consequential ungrounded LARP event in recent history had to be the Jan. 6 riots, that I wrote about here. But unlike a constant community of re-enactors getting together, and engaging in relatively innocuous fun, with that grounding Slushie reality transition at the 7/11, we had people fueling their own fantasies across the Internet, some hopping private planes, and flying out for “Insurrection Lite”. No one could seriously consider what happened on Jan. 6 an authentic coup — yet the other side of the LARP community, the various ungrounded forces on the Left with little experience in the real violence of an actual military coup, grabbed on to the symbolic nature and ran with it in their own histrionic fashion.

This is not to say that Donald Trump, engaged in his own perilous, delusional form of the LARP in his head, did not want to SEE a coup that might restore him to power. Far from it. But narcissist psychopaths gonna narcissistic psychopath. Like it or not, he is one guy. When the Joint Chiefs line up against those kinds of shenanigans, you know there is no real coup threat.

LARPing tendencies, at least the destructive ones, are characterized by empathy bubbles. People get on the Internet, with little experience, and start positive feedback loops that create these extreme positions. People construct ungrounded constructions having little to do with actual reality — mostly because there are no shared experiences in the Real World that serve as a grounding touchstone. You want a real revolution? You can set yourself up for nonsense by staying in a four star hotel before you go riot in the Capitol. Or you can spend a night sleeping on the cold, wet ground cradling your AR-15. One of these two experiences will teach you how difficult a revolution might be a priori. And one most definitely won’t.

The problem with LARP thinking is that the bubble effects not only happen on Left and Right. It creates movements like ‘defund the police’. Our middle-class bubbles are easy to maintain. My Safeway store, with all of its complicated supply-chain dynamics, make it easy to pontificate on the whole ‘burn it all down’ mindset. Fetching a pint of Ben and Jerry’s can always be executed after you post something on Twitter.

But it doesn’t give anyone any insight on this tremendously complicated and complex society. Nor does it develop any metacognition on how little any of us knows when it comes to appreciating how we are continually well-fed during what has been almost 2 years of the largest ostensible global crisis the world has seen since the World Wars. It is both a testament to the miracle of modern society, as well as the damning indictment that our leadership has playing a LARP around the issue of COVID at our expense. There are no bodies in the street, and even after two years of pandemic, a literal smattering of hospital overruns.

And yet, instead of using the voluminous data regarding COVID on our actual social/physical systems, we are bombarded with news of the ongoing LARP. Last week it was supply chain collapse. This week it is the omicron variant. The reason it continues is because as we continue along our merry way, we lose more and more of our ability to even see complexity in our society. And that manifests itself with a profound loss of empathy — who can believe that anywhere, we are masking kids?

Recovery is possible. I feel fortunate to have lived such a rich, though often extremely unpleasant, experience-filled life. If there’s a moment that’s called back to me, it’s when I was working as a process control engineer at J&L Steel, in Cleveland, OH back in 1982. I had grown up in southern Ohio, as backward a backwater part of this country that exists. Whenever any union went on strike, there were always two things — people vandalizing rail cars and pushing them destructively off the tracks, and then, of course, burning police cars.

But Cleveland was far different. When the union voted to go on strike (it was averted) as a young member of the management, who was contractually obligated to cross the picket line, I went up to the old union guys who ran the equipment at the mill. I was 20 years old, and nervous — were they planning on wrecking anything? Taking a wrench to the exquisitely tuned hot mill I had worked on for three months? Were they going to beat me up if I crossed the picket line? Would they listen to me after the strike was over?

All of them, mostly old hillbillies from West Virginia, who had fled the coal mine violence in the mid ’50s, back-slapped me, and said “Shoot, kid, we’re not playing some fucked up LARP. We go on strike for higher wages — but we want that mill here when we get back. Why would we ever be so stupid and destroy the thing we all need to make money? And the two weeks the strike might last is just enough time for you to get those computers all tuned up and running.”

Of course, they had no idea what a LARP was. But they knew what reality was. It’s past time for all of us to look at where we’ve LARPed up, and open the door to larger grounding reality and validity. And we might just find that we’re sharing the same real estate with folks who might have some interest in persistence of at least some of our current systems. That is NOT an argument for no change. I’ve worked on system change my whole life. But the level of ignorance of reality is higher than any time since I’ve been alive.

And that’s the problem with not understanding the difference between reality and a LARP. The feedback loop is going to be harsh. And our lack of awareness will make not one whit of difference.