Friday, 29 October 2004

Brave New World

It helps when reading this to be familiar with the album "War of the Worlds".

Now imagine a certain Democrat candidate for the US presidency singing it...

Take a look around you at the world we've come to know
Does it seem to be much more than a crazy circus show
Maybe from the madness, something beautiful will grow
In a brave new world, with guidance from the UN,
We'll start... we'll start all over again!
All over again! All over again! All over again!

The US domination of the Earth is fading fast,
And out of the confusion a chance has come at last,
To build a better future from the ashes of the past,
In a brave new world, with guidance from the UN,
We'll start all over again!

Look, man is born in freedom, but he soon becomes a slave,
In cages of convention from the cradle to the grave,
The weak fall by the wayside but Progressives will be saved,
In a brave new world, with guidance from the UN,
We'll start all over again!

I'm not trying to tell you what to be,
Oh no, oh no, not me...
But you'll see at a glance, that we should learn from France,
They're gonna have to build this world anew
And it's going to have to start with the EU ... OUI!

I'm not trying to tell you what to be,
Oh no, oh no, not me...
The proles with feeble SATS, they NEED aristocrats,
They're gonna have to build this world anew
Yes and we will have to be that chosen few...

Just think of all the poverty, the hatred and the lies,
And imagine the destruction of all that you despise,
Slowly from the ashes the phoenix will arise,
In a brave new world, with guidance from the UN
We'll start all over again!

Take a look around you at the world you've loved so well,
And bid that aging empire, AmeriKKKa farewell
It may not sound like heaven but at least it isn't hell
It's a brave new world, with guidance from the UN,
We'll start, we'll start all over again!
All over again! All over again! All over again!

It's unfair, unjust, grossly exaggerated, satirical, and I fear all too accurate.

The one thing that causes me to distrust capital-S Socialism is that the "elite", the "cadre" who control Progressive Movements see themselves as the Wise and the Good, servants of the people. They are mere citizens, but they're the best citizens to lead. Their only superiority is in their intellect, their education, and their political progressiveness.

Now look at the Webster's Dictionary definition of 'Aristocracy'.

When I first read Orwell's '1984' with his musings about how the Proles could just be the saviours of us all, I didn't understand him fully; and what I did understand, I disagreed with.

But as a Computer Scientist who's done a little work on Artificial Intelligence, Cybernetics and Systems, I've become increasingly convinced that he was right. The reason Democracy works so well (though still imperfectly) is that masses of people behave differently, and have a different Intelligence, than individuals do. You really *can* talk about "the electorate" as a single entity, rather than merely a container for the set of all voters. The unconscious thought that occurs, which often leads to voters making an unconscious decision, then attempting to find justifications for it, is a very, very dangerously innacurate thing when performed by the individual. It's called "prejudice", and can lead to all sorts of nasty symptoms, like racism, sexism etc. But when its engaged in by millions, or tens of millions, it can often lead to truths which only much later on are found to be valid via logic and deductive reasoning. It has value: like Fire, it's a useful slave but a terrible master. The point is, that the "great unwashed", the Proles, the Masses, the Plebians , as a whole tend to exhibit ordinary human decency. That is extraordinary. And it makes their vote, and their opinions, at least as valid, and sometimes more accurate, than the ones of their intellectual superiors. Most of their intellectual superiors aren't aware of that though, they're not quite that superior.

A few months ago, on this blog I mentioned that Democracy seemed to be superior to even Meritocracy. I got comments from someone who asked me exactly how this could be. Well, it's taken me quite a while to put it all together. Some (relatively simple) tasks, like building bridges, sending someone to the Moon and back etc are amenable to a formal, logical, and rigorourous conscious-thought approach. Get your premisses right, follow the logic through, you get a 100% guranteed right answer. Meritocracy rules here. The trouble is that getting the premisses right is often impossible for some worthwhile tasks - like solving world hunger, ensuring justice for all, and so on. Meritocrats who are experts in their areas are no better, and often worse, than people who are less expert in any field other than the one of simply living. And that takes an inordinate amount of Intelligence - simple socialisation between humans requires the devotion of large parts of the brain. The reason why so many "experts" or "geniusses" are proverbially other-wordly, as in the traditional Absent-minded Professor, is that they only have so much Brain to start with, and large parts of theirs are devoted to Planaria, or Software Engineering, or some other Intellectual pursuit. Other people have much more expertise in difficult subjects less admired: the Traditional Dumb Blonde Valley Girl may spent vast amounts of processing power figuring out social interactions, how to become "Most Popular Person", choosing clothes etc. But being human, it's difficult for one of the Nerds, the Experts on Intelligence (whose own Brains are wired up not to value social interactivity so highly) to realise just how much intellectual processing power is involved in everyday decisions by the hoi palloi. When you do, it's quite humbling. Worse, looked at objectively, this should have been bleedin' obvious. Einstein's Brain was anatomically unexceptional. Moreover, there have been many medical cases pointing out that we don't really know a heck of a lot about the brain. A perfect example is that of Lt Robert Lawrence (whose story is told in Tumbledown). He was unfortunate enough to be hit in the head by a high-velocity military rifle bullet. The bullet itself did little damage, but as any military expert will tell you, with those rounds the bullet makes a little hole, but a cupful of tissue around it is turned to jelly. Lt Lawrence eventually had a massive 45% of his brain matter removed. But apart from partial paralysis on his left side, his intellect remained intact, his emotions remained much the same, it didn't affect him nearly as much as by all rights it should have. He's since gone on to chronicle his experiences in a book, and of course act as advisor in the movie.
Other people can have a much smaller insult to the brain - a blood clot in the wrong place, with only a pea-sized amount of tissue destruction - and become, bluntly, "cabbages".

There's so much we just don't know, about Brains, Intellect, Thought and Intelligence.

To summarise:
I distrust Aristocracies, they have a poor track record.
A Meritocracy applied to an area not fully Scientifically understood (as in Government) is an Aristocracy.
Most formal Socialist parties are ruled by an Aritocracy.
Democracies work well , and my hypothesis is that this is because people in the mass have a different kind of intelligence at work.

I'll blog more on this later. Meanwhile, readers might like to have a look at some relevant past posts:
Let Them Eat Cake
Baboon or Buffoon?

If that piques your curiousity, do a search on this site, first with keyword "aristocracy", then with keyword "democracy".

1 comment:

CERDIP said...


Your points are important ones. Like you may have as well, I've wandered about in that wasteland called "elitism", marvelling at my own ability to reason my way through life's decisions. Secure in my belief that I was on the right track and most of the rest of society was fubar. But little by little, there was this worm growing in the back of my consciousness that fed on my collisions with the "everday idiot".

It took me at least a pair of decades to *begin* to recognize that for the most part, the collection of "idiots" around me were doing a better job of dealing with issues that were, to me, intractable. And they did it with what seemed to be much more ease.

This is not "collectivism" in action. It is competition. A great, world-class, award-winning idea may be rejected, and lose out at the polls. But why? Why would anyone with half a brain reject it? Because it isn't ready yet, that's why. When it's ready, it will beat out its competitors, and carry the day.

So the marketplace of ideas really is a competetive marketplace.

It strikes me that meritocracy is merely ruling by the specification sheet. It's the philosophy of the maximal. The best everyday example of that in my experience is the audiophile who buys a set of speakers based upon stellar frequency response, when the competition's offerings have poorer performance. And yet the competing product's frequency response also exceeds the ranges of human hearing. Sensible consumers know that by buying the "less capable" product, they have enough money left over to buy quite a bit of good music to listen to as well. Or get some new boots. Or buy some more Lego for their kids.

Optimal versus maximal. Democracy seeks the optimal solution.