virus: The Gist of the Gestalt (was: Attn: Long Post Pt. 1)

Dan Plante (
Tue, 29 Jun 1999 14:55:34 -0700

At 01:24 PM 28/06/99 -0400 Eric Boyd wrote:
>As I see it, you've made two points here:
>(1) your system needs a stable motivational complex

Actually, I said *strong* and stable, and for a very good reason. See below.

>(2) the system must have consequences which are significant and
>unavoidable for each decision/maker.
>I agree with you that Nomic lacks the first, although it is quite
>traditional for the first few enacted rules to *define* a game
>purpose, and then the motivation is to win.

Only within the context that, it is, in the end, just a game. If I was in the middle of one of these games, winning big time, and my girlfriend phoned me and said she was feeling "frisky", then I can guarantee you that, within about 5 nanoseconds, I probably wouldn't even remember why my friends were over at my place as I was kicking them out the door. The game manifests the evolution of the *game*, not human behaviourial dynamics.

>Nomic does, however, have the second -- players are always bound by
>every enacted rule -- and some of them have serious effects. (e.g. in
>games which can be "won" by creating a rule paradox, it only takes one
>mistaken vote to lose the game)

Again, within a limited game context, this is true. But all you stand to lose is a game. *You* are not really going to starve because a competitor spoiled your country's crops with agent orange, and it is that *real* fear that will always elicit an utterly distinct behaviour. This is the point I'm trying to make about a *true* motivational complex. Until it is dealing with *real* situations, the game (or any other simulation) can't possibly predict the dynamics. The feedback loop is greatly attenuated, and it's not substantially closed.

>But beyond all that, the game still serves as an example of a system
>which evolves by letting it's players create and vote on new
>legislation. As such, it proves that such systems can actually
>function. (according to my readings, the game was orginally invented
>to show the impossibility of such things -- an ironic turn of events!)

Ironic indeed. And yes, I agree with the above, as long as by saying "such systems" you mean something other than a real aspect of humanity.

>>Major Point #2:
>>You seem to think that the final 'stable' point in the evolutation of
>>the political system will necessairly be the best point.
>Yes, by its very nature. Unavoidably so.
>Hmmm. I've re-read your comments on this issue several times, and I
>still feel that something is wrong -- but I'm having trouble putting
>my finger on it.


Eric, I read all the replies in the further parts that I snipped, and they all seem, from my perspective, to have one basic thing in common: they seem to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic essence of emergent system dynamics.

Maybe it would help to "suck back and reload". Look at the issue from a different perspective.

Question: What is the distinctive, defining essence of the democratic paradigm? The answer is two-fold and complimentary:

  1. equality

Every individual is presumed to have an equal value, and therefore equal power (one person, one vote).

2) plurality

Greater-than-half is presumed to represent the whole (majority rules).

Assertion: Democracies, on the whole, regardless of what flavour they have come in, have historically shown themselves to be more effective and efficient than the other alternatives (i.e. cases where more-than-equal power of some degree or another, is vested in fewer individuals), and the closer they have been to a true democracy, the more effective they have been in contrast. If the previous points are essentially correct, it can lead to only one logical conclusion: since equality and plurality are the defining distinctions that set democracy apart from the alternatives, then it is these core qualities, and *only* these qualities, that the greater effectiveness and efficiency (fitness) can possibly be ascribed to.

But historically, we have never really had a *true* democracy, just different bastardized versions. This begs another question: is it actually these modifications (i.e. representative democracy) that have made what could actually be an almost unworkable system, highly effective in spite of itself? There is one critical observation you have to make before you can answer this question: as a truly and purely democratic system gets modified in some way or another, its essential character becomes less like a pure democracy and more like the alternatives mentioned above, which have already been shown to be less effective. Therefore, the modifications *can't* be responsible for the greater effectiveness and efficiency, it has to be attributable only to the core aspects - equality and plurality.

So, this is another way of saying what I have said before in terms of emergent systems dynamics, but explained using the logic of a different level of analysis (i.e. common human experience). But what about all the (quite valid) objections regarding the "non-starter" attributes? As I've said before, if the system emerges at all, that is a priori evidence that it is fit for its environment (not necessarily the *most* fit, but fit enough to emerge - i.e. not "stillborn). Can it then evolve to be even more fit? Of course. Can we uncategorically assert that it can't "find a way" around percieved hurdles towards this end? Absolutely not. This preconception displays a lack of appreciation of the real magnitude of the probability space that a complex system "hunts" during the process of evolution. For every hurdle you can think up, the process of evolution will tryout billions other possibilities that you couldn't possibly think of. And for every reason you can think of that would make any one hurdle a definite dead-end, evolution can "think up" a thousand ways around it, or a trillion alternatives that would never occur to you. In any complex system, there are many levels of emergence, and there is feed-forward and feed-back to, and from, each and every level constantly, including the quantum realm. A quick peek at the literature describing the possible cognitive contribution afforded by quantum well structures in neuronic microtubules should drive this idea home (activity at the lower levels are attenuated for a variety of reasons, but they still come into play). The point is, the possibilities open to the process of evolution are closed to you; they are computationally intractable, in theory and practice. So, the only route to evaluate the efficacy of this phenomenon is to look at existing systems for evidence of this. And when you do, you see hellishly "brilliant" solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and simple but elegant solutions to what you would have thought would have been insoluable problems. This is the only real evidence we have to go on in this respect, but I think this evidence is more than enough. It is this realisation that has caused some in the past to remark: "Necessity is the mother of invention", and "Life really does find a way". This isn't some mystical affirmation, it is an assertion based on an analysis of countless systems of emergent complexity. It is the result of painstakingly evaluating characteristics of form and function, condensing and abstracting the fundamental aspects of each system, and finding within the whole set, a common denominator of essential characteristics, and a common *generic* description of the dynamics that come into play as the system further *refines itself* after the initial emergence.

>I've tried to find a page about this on the internet, but my searching
>turned up nothing. I suspect we may be spelling the word wrong. Or
>maybe it's so special that nobody else has written anything on it?

Ummm.... kineocracy? (If my guess of the etymology is correct)