Sunday, February 25, 2018

Levels of Selection & Progressivism

In trying to understand progressivism's simulataneous embracement of tribalism and cosmopolitanism, I think I've finally come to a frame that makes sense for me.

From a levels of selection perspective, we're currently operating at a nation state level polity. The US is obviously overly-stretched by this. Is this due to its 300M+ size, geographical separation, or untenable diversity with low social coherence capital levels?

A levels of selection frame suggests looking for US and other stable nation states to start experimenting with larger unions. The EU experiment is one case. NAFTA can be seen as a nascent step down this path.

The level down from the current US nation state level is pre-civil war state polities united by weak federal bonds.

Of course it never makes sense to view progressivism as a simple case of anti-federalism. That is just ludicrous.

But imagine if instead of simply going up or down a level of selection, you bifurcate between both.... (if you've been following my draft work on Quasi-factual Metaphorical Truths, you'll obviously see where this muse came from)

I now believe many versions of progressivism are after chiefdom dynamic polities operating under a pan national opened bordered cosmopolitanism. Here is how I imagine this odd solution to look.

You would have first nation reservations operating as fairly autonomous units. They can certainly partner up in multi-tribal groups (say all Assiniboine), but such interactions would be largely due to convenience rather than via formal governance agreements.  Similarly you would have a rise of city states. For instance greater Vancouver might be one polity. Hope and maybe Abbotsford would be different polities. After all, the politics of large urban centres are VERY different from more rural areas.  There might even be non-geographically constrained units self-selected by ideology.

The key feature of these units is their responsive governance. The people remain a very real unit of control (sort of how Iceland is so responsive). Politicians have direct contact with their constituents and people are able to exert extremely strong social control over them. Ideological homogeneity would be pretty strong (or at least it is imagined that it would be)

These polities are subsumed by a legislatively weak pan federal entity. This would likely handle all the "human rights" concerns. Of course "human rights" would be broadly construed - right to travel (road maintenance, etc), right to work (whatever that might entail, etc.), etc.

Like most people I probably would have scoffed at this idea some time ago. I certainly think there are huge issues with operationalization. However, when understanding social systems, especially those highly influenced by Utopian thinking, it is never wise to reject things because of logistical concerns.

Whether or not this could work, I believe many people think it could. Not only that, I suspect many people think it is the only way things might work.

The critiques of this system of governance are clear and obvious. My point isn't to evaluate this idea. Rather, it is to suggest that this multi-level frame might make it easier to understand how various progressive ideologies may view these issues.

For instance, the reading I've been doing lately on Indigenous epistemologies really makes me think this perspective is an accurate reading. If you were to try and decolonize indigenous perspectives on tribal society based upon taken-for-granted levels of intra-group sociality, what would you get?

Chances are you would get an assumption that groups of people can work together provided their leaders are responsive to their needs and concerns. You would also have an assumption that neighbouring groups wouldn't fight. Why would they? Cooperation is productive and each group is getting what they need (local responsiveness). After all, the government isn't sending soldiers around to keep Abbotsford from invading Vancouver.

You would also get an assumption that power in the hands of a government actor is just a continuation of colonialism. The only way to get rid of this structure is to get rid of nationalism itself.  Pan nationalism then would focus on what people need, not what is needed to govern them.

All in all, a very interesting thought experiment to pursue.  All it really takes is an ability to discount the ability of individuals to re-create internal nation states and an ability to discount the chance external nation states will attack and colonize.  These are pretty easy assumptions to make from within this world view.

2min decolonization video

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quasi-factual Lynchpins

Last post I tried to sketch out a a brief case for the stabilization of quasi-factual metaphorical truths (QFMT’s) as group based moral slogans.  The main idea was that the utility of low risk signaling when combined with the known  memetic fitness of slightly counter-intuitive ideas would, when driven by repeated orientational shifts between adjacent levels of selection, produce quasi-factual moral slogans/memes that had a core metaphorical truth complimented by a double entendre lynchpin surface.  The archetypical core should reflect tension between the two adjacent levels of selection and convey some practical universal truths.

This didn’t work.  The lynchpin idea failed pragmatic review. Neither was there clear emergence of a strong archetypical core.

However, what did seem to come out of this first round of tests was the possibility for the evolution of lynchpins themselves.  This is what I’ll expand on.

Lynchpins & Multi-level Selection
The main idea of multi-level selection is that there is always tension between adjacent “group” levels. This means an individual is torn between doing what is best for them by working for the benefit of a large group and doing what is best for them by working for the benefit of a smaller group which is more contextually responsive.

As numerous gene-culture co-evolution papers and simulations suggest, large groups require fairly loose norm enforcement. Without this looseness they just can’t grow very big. But too much looseness leads to catastrophic decline.  There is a balance between rigidity and looseness. The stabilization of larger groups requires some significant gene-culture selection working on individuals.

The tension between value of loose universalism and tight boundaries produces a cyclic evolutionary cycle. 

Let’s start at the presence of distinct splinter groups. When there are multiple groups competing against each other, one stable solution is pluralism. The groups come to terms with interactional norms. For instance, following the US robber baron era citizens were very divided on systemic progression barriers and the role of individual skill and industry. The formulization of the American Dream is a moral laden presentation of this tension which focusses on universalizing morals which incentivize effort by clearly stating that it should be rewarded when complimented by ability.  This can be seen as a pluralistic value statement.  It is highly generalized and clearly universalistic.  Disagreeing with this statement can be seen to put you far outside the purview of what can be feasibly accommodated (at least for the era of good will –late 1930’s to early 1990’s).

But universalism complimented by loose norm enforcement is, over time, problematic. Religion/governance co-evolution suggests recurring periods of formalization. This may involve shifts to systemic theology or transparent, perhaps even technocratic, rule of law. Over time, large successful groups formalize with increasingly clear moral statements. These statements are often stark. They enable clear delineations of who is with you and who is not. Creedal statements fit here.

But too much rigidity sews its own seeds of destruction. In complexity theory this happens with the emergence of splinter groups. The sociology of group evolution generally supports this assumption. As does basic organizational theory.  But the self-organization of splinter groups requires signaling mechanisms. The re-interpretation of creedal like moral statements into potential ironic forms enables this signaling.  You can, with a straight face and no “tells”, fully support a given iteration of the creed. This creates problems for technocratic norm enforcement. Are they actually agreeing with you or disagreeing? Individual interaction can usually discern this easily, but the technocratic apparatus of large groups can’t.  The memes afford adherents a technical legalistic escape if needed.

This supports the evolution of splinter groups. They grow in size. Their lynchpins move from caustic irony to unabashed alternatives.

The lynchpin evolution just presented enables some falsifiable predictions.
  1. Well established groups should have moral slogans (QFMT’s) which are fairly stark.
  2. Recent splinter groups should have somewhat ironic QFMT’s with a greater probability of having double entendres.
  3. Ascendant groups should transition from ironic double entendre QFMT’s into universalizing versions.
  4. Universalizing QFMT’s should transition into starker (creedal) expressions.
  5. A group with a highly rigid highly stark creedal QFMT should induce more splinter groups with ironic QFMT’s than a similar less rigid less stark group.

I’ll use my original meme list to select a couple of QFMT’s that have a well known evolution tree.  The ones that stand out to me as being significant and having a potentially traceable history are;
  • ·       Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
  • ·       Fake news
  • ·       American Dream
  • ·       The way FNMI are treated is shameful
  • ·       Only the name Jehovah saves (Jehovah Witness slogan)
  • ·       Joseph Smith restored the gospel (Mormon slogan)

Current phase
(stark, universal, ironic lynchpin)
Predicted Recent Phase
Likely Recent Phase
Validity of Relevant Predictions
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Ironic lynchpin

same idea from US slave era

“a sword is never a killer, it’s a tool in the killer’s hands” – early Roman era
2 – recent splinters should have double entendres QFMT’s

3 – ironic lynchpins transition to universal QFMT’s

Gun rights groups seem to be struggling to find a less controversial slogan for this idea

Anti-gun groups seem to want to keep this meme as counter-factual as possible

5 - Rigid creeds should produce more splinters with more ironic lynchpins
It is hard to say what the parent group of modern gun right groups are. They likely emerged after the 1968 gun control act and tensions from 60’s social reforms. The 80’s saw another resurgence of gun right issues.

Fake news
Ironic lynchpin
Stark creed
Stark creed

Journalists are the arbiters of truth.
2 – recent splinters should have double entendres QFMT’s
This is a recent splinter idea & nascent group.

The meme first came from Hillary’s Clinton’s campaign in relation to pro-Trump news, especially that by Fox news and conservative talk radio.

3 – ironic lynchpins transition to universal QFMT’s
not relevant.

This splinter is too new.  However, it seems likely the fake news meme will evolve into a larger meta-truth that “all” media is politicized one way or another.

5 - Rigid starks should produce more splinters with more ironic lynchpins

It is hard to assess if journalism’s hold on a moral high for fairness was or was not overly stark. Chances are it was not nearly as stark as comparable religious beliefs. However, people who have doubted the fairness of the media have often been vilified. Attacks were perceived to challenge the very nature upon which modern democracies depend.
American Dream
(everyone can succeed by hard work & skill)
Ironic lynchpin
Ironic lynchpin

While this meme’s evolutionary history is uncertain, it emerged during the reconciliation phase of 1900’s era labour conflicts.  It is doubtful that it was a purposefully ironic statement. Rather, it was a statement about more personal fulfillment that was easily adoptable by the material focus of the war era.
3 – ironic lynchpins transition to universal QFMT’s

4  - Universals transition to Creedal QFMT’s

This meme seems to be bifurcating between those who interpret it very ironically (MAGA reactionaries) and those who desire it to be a creedal like test of citizenship (MAGA zealots)
The way FNMI (indigenous people) are treated is shameful
Ironic lynchpin / Universal
Ironic lynchpin
2 – recent splinters should have double entendres QFMT’s


This is a recent reformulation of the idea that everyone should be treated equally. While it appears to jump straight to a Universal level, getting pulled back by a-progressive conservatives, I believe it may have actually emerged as an ironic reaction to statements that natives were getting too many benefits that non-native Canadians were not. Thus it may have been a purposeful double entendre to trump and co-opt the extreme conservative meme.

4  - Universals transition to Creedal QFMT’s

This idea is quickly emerging as a creedal test. This interpretation yields a very stark creedal meme.
Only the name Jehovah saves
Stark creed

While I’m not as up on my Jehovah Witness history as I could be, from what I know this meme started as, most religious break-aways do, as a confluence of lynchpins.  The most successful of these was then universalized and entangled with the evolution of a distinct moral system.  The importance of this “slogan” increased and it now functions as a creedal statement.
1 – The QFMT’s of well established groups are fairly stark & creedal in nature
This group is about 150 years old.

5 - Rigid creeds should produce more splinters with more ironic lynchpins

There are a few break away’s from this group, but not many. Especially for the known rigidness of group norms.  The few break aways I could find mainly focused on lynchpin interpretations of specific scriptures. 
Joseph Smith restored the Gospel
Stark creed

Joseph Smith’s reformation-restoration was based upon the lynchpin of modern revelation. The idea of modern revelation was a universal point during 19th century American great religious awakenings.
1 – The QFMT’s of well established groups are fairly stark & creedal in nature
This group is about 175 years old. The restoration, Book of Mormon and other unique Mormon positions associated with Joseph Smith’s role create a fairly stark creed.

5 - Rigid creeds should produce more splinters with more ironic lynchpins
There are a few modern break away’s from this group, but accurate comparisons to Jehovah Witness break away numbers is difficult.  It is also hard to judge whether Mormon orthodoxy is more rigid than Jehovah Witness orthodoxy. I lean to saying it is less rigid, but this is uncertain.  But in general the low number of break aways falsifies the prediction.

However, break aways do occur on lynchpin issues. However, it is hard to discern if they emerged via double entendre signaling.