Saturday, August 29, 2009

Evolving Utopia Part 3

Part 3: Theoretical Research

No one gets trained to do research into human behavior scientifically, but I found myself, willy nilly, in a search that has taken much of my lifetime.
In 1950, after graduating from MIT, I was drafted and, for a while, continued as a civil service employee of the Department of Defense. After that I obtained a Ph. D. in Physics from Columbia University and worked in business and at Yale and SUNY Stony Brook.

None of the human behavior I observed made sense. At the same time the academic study of human behavior I read about was directed at explaining that "sanity" meant conforming to the status quo. That didn't make much sense either, especially after we got involved in Vietnam. Unlike my contemporaries, I refused to accept what I did not understand.

There was one idea that had never been seriously followed up in modern terms. In the 1920s, when quantum physics was a new idea, philosophers wondered if the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle could somehow be connected to the concept of "Free Will". While that was too simplistic to be a good starting point, I decided see if it made sense to study behavior by using the mathematical techniques and approaches that Tsung-Dao Lee used for quantum statistical physics.

After doing that for some time I had a method with which:

I was able to explain how we evolved the group similarities of appearance that we call "racial" (See Part 9),
I was able to show why Toynbee's theory of the evolution of civilization worked when it did, and what worked when it didn't (See Part 11),

I was able to show that the the block diagram of a robot who could pass the Turing Test was essentially identical to the mind-models of Sigmund Freud and Noam Chomsky (See Part 19),

I was able to show that a gender-independent Oedipus Complex was implicit in the parable of the Tower of Babel. (See Part 21)

Those were remarkable results in any case, but were astounding when viewed as the result of simply approaching behavior from a mathematical point of view.

Unfortunately, it took the better part of fifty years to get all those results because I never got any feedback and had to do everything by myself. The behavioral scientists didn't understand the mathematics, and the mathematical physicists didn't want to think about human behavior.

In addition, while it did explain why we were acting in a way that didn't make sense, a projection of human social evolution into the near future predicted that Western Civilization was about to suffer a "decline and fall".

As you can imagine, I did not find that entirely satisfactory and I still hope we will avoid a total collapse of Western Civilization. I recognize that the prospect is ominous, but I think there is a possibility that Barack Hussein Obama can bring us to a relatively stable place.

But simply getting ourselves back in tune with our principles will not automatically get to the situation that Barrack Hussein Obama described in his Inaugural Address.

Some time before Barack Hussein Obama appeared on the scene I wrote a novel that was set in a utopian postindustrial civilization. The novel was a "gedanken" experiment that demonstrated that such a postindustrial civilization was possible; but I couldn't imagine how we could reach it from the situation we were in. (See the folder labeled "Utopia".)

That was not to say that the basic philosophy of the Utopia was unreasonable. It was based on universal egalitarianism, an abhorrence of waste (which was regarded as extreme bad taste or nekulturni), and a positive attitude toward creativity.

It also included a notion introduced by Norbert Wiener in the 1940s, that when computers and robots were mature, no one would be allowed to work unless he or she could do something better than the robots or computers. That was because Wiener grew up in a Cambridge "old money" atmosphere in which display of waste was distasteful; and having human beings do work that could be better done by machines is the ultimate kind of waste.

The Utopia would have a "Working" class who met a peer-applied criterion for non-wasteful creativity, and a "Leisure" class who merely had to occupy themselves in a way that didn't egregiously waste resources. Because equality meant that everyone had an equal right to life, the necessities of life would be distributed on the basis of "take what you want and use what you take". Necessities would include food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare and, in the case of the working class, such resources as they needed for their work.

By making waste (including resources consumed for symbolic purposes) distasteful, there would be more than enough resources to go around and the system could be sustained indefinitely. Surplus resources would be used for personal projects or recycled into the ecosystem.

But while the logic of the Utopia was not obviously flawed, neither was it obviously evolved from our contemporary society. This left me puzzled, and it didn't resolve itself before the appearance of Barack Hussein Obama and the financial crisis of 2008.

There was one detail of my proposed Utopia that seemed to be extremely unlikely to result from a capitalist society: the notion that resources would be distributed on a "take what you need but use what you take" basis. That seems, on the surface, so completely incompatible with capitalism that it is hard to imagine a transition.

But there is one system that already works that way: insured medical care. Just because medical care is available on demand, no one but a psychopath requests unnecessary surgery or toxic drugs and there is no status to be gained by unnecessary medical treatment. Anything else of value confers status when accumulated beyond the bounds of necessity, but healthcare doesn't.

If President Obama is successful in establishing universally available medical care then it is a short step to have that include healthy nutrition, housing and clothing. It makes no sense to provide medical care to an individual only to have them die of starvation or exposure. This kind of healthcare would not be associated with employment because it would be available to those unemployed by Wiener's principle.

This situation can be approached in relatively small steps, and while it will be opposed by those who still have an income subject to taxes, it will not seem grossly unreasonable to those already on a dole.

This will seem more natural as money becomes more obviously obsolete.

Money is a workaround to the complexity of barter on a global basis. In an export-import market it is convenient to have everything bartered for something with a high value per unit of weight, like rare metals and gems; but with computers, actual tokens of exchange are unnecessary. In addition the computer can contain relative barter values of millions of commodities, so that it is not necessary to have an imaginary barter for pieces of metal. A money-based economy is obsolete: we just don't realize it.

In effect, this was the reason for the crash of 2008. The corporate bureaucrats in the financial industry obtained status through wealth, but the computer numbers that supposedly documented that wealth did not correspond to anything real. This made it easy for operators like Bernie Madoff to run ponzi schemes because the only wealth to look at were numbers in a computer file; and the value of those numbers was whatever you expected it to be. When the expectations collapsed there was nothing behind the numbers and the wealth simply vanished.

Whatever else happens, government regulations will be set up so that the treasury is not expected to print money to fill up the gap when expectations falter, and that will eliminate the financial industry as a source of personal wealth. Wealth will have to be backed by something tangible, like a pile of commodities.

All of these developments will be facilitated by the egalitarianism that has been certified by the election of Barack Hussein Obama. It will make pseudo-status based on possession of a useless accumulation of tchotchkes ridiculous, and remove the motive for commerce for its own sake.

There is one thing that will act as an impediment to egalitarianism: the pseudoscience that is accepted as "evolution" in academia.

Academic evolution is characterized by the slogan "survival of the fittest", and is the argument that senior bureaucrats and tenured faculty use to justify their positions in the corporate and academic hierarchy. On that basis the expectation would have been that George W. Bush was the fittest American during his leadership, and that was so false on the face of it that no one in academia whose job did not depend on it would present "survival of the fittest" with a straight face. But it does provide a justification for authoritarian hierarchy, and for going to war.

It is not valid science: it is pseudoscience.

Interestingly enough only a minority of people outside of academia believe in evolution because they do not feel inferior to academics and politicians and have too much common sense to be tricked into feeling that way. They are right in having that attitude. The valid characterization of evolution is Darwin's: "The non-survival of the unfit" (See Part 7).

The mathematically naive imagine that these statements are equivalent, but they are not. "Survival of the fittest" means that only one individual survives per generation; whereas "non-survival of the unfit" (or "survival of the just-barely-fit and fitter") means that most of the population in any generation survive. Ordinary common sense shows easily which of those is correct.

The difficulty is that understanding the implications of "the nonsurvival of the unfit" requires mathematical ideas that had not been invented in Darwin's time, and the justification of hierarchy by Spencer's version, "survival of the fittest" was too convenient for tenured academics to allow them to abandon it.

But in the New York Times of January 13, 2007, Dr. Michael Tomasello, the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology wrote "We are still a long way from figuring out why humans evolved to do so many complicated things together: from building houses to creating universities to fighting wars."

Dr. Tomasello, who is in a position to know, tells us that a century and a half of academic research on evolution has come nowhere near an explanation for basic human social behavior even if examples are available at every hand, and an explanation has been available for two millennia or more. Not only that, but it doesn't seem to disturb anyone very much.

If that situation prevailed in physics it would disturb a lot of people very much.

Luckily, we can go to the christian "Holy" Bible. The Parable of the Tower of Babel in Genesis tells us that unless we all use the same mouth-noises to mean the same things we are unable to do things beyond the scope of the lesser primates. Communication by abstract mouth-noises is the distinguishing characteristic of Homo Sapiens Sapiens and that doesn't work unless our behavior has a substantial component of mutual conformity and cooperation.

If evolutionists can ignore the easily observable characteristic that makes us unique among animals, it is no wonder that more non-academic people prefer to believe in religion than evolutionary science.

In some ways even traditional religious myths make more sense than science does, especially when the science is distorted in the interest of the elite establishment.

The Parable of the Tower of Babel a not the only example of early scientific explanation of human behavior. The Parable of Adam and his sons is an accurate (if metaphorical) explanation of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the Mideast.

It says that our ancestors, Adam and Eve, lived by gathering in a natural Paradise, and Adam (acting in the role of a shaman) talked directly with God. This is an accurate characterization of the paleolithic lifestyle. Unfortunately the serpent (a universal symbol of creativity) tempts our ancestors to learn new things about nature and technology. We do not resist that temptation because our species needs more than just conformity to paleolithic technology if we want to expand into different ecosystems. Eventually this causes us to evolve agriculture and the Neolithic lifestyle, and grow a population that cannot be supported by gathering in the Garden of Eden.

During that Neolithic population explosion some of us (represented by Cain) practice grain agriculture in an infrastructure that is centered on organized religion while some of us (represented by Abel) practice agriculture at second hand by eating animals that eat the grass that we can't eat. Abel and his herder siblings can move around and retain a pre-Neolithic tribal infrastructure, vitality and morality.

Cain's grain can be stored for bad years, giving social stability to his urban siblings, but he violently resists using the stored grain to feed Abel's flock. Eventually Cain's people have to hire Abel's people to guard the stored grain against other barbarians. Abel's warrior grandsons become the secular rulers of the agricultural city, and they get to rewrite the myth so that Abel is a sweet innocent rather than a barbarian raider.

The singular God who plays such a passive role in this critical transition in social evolution is still a useful metaphor to understand things like the Paradox of Schrodinger's cat and Einstein's rejection of quantum theory, because a passive God can be consistent with free will and creativity, and therefore with science. We will look at those paradoxes after we consider the role of God (or at least a godlike mathematical model) in understanding human behavior.

We will see that religion, taken in a serious and sophisticated way, can help us to understand our evolution. In fact if we do not understand how God (or the godlike model) helps us to understand behavior we will not understand that behavior.

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