Thursday, September 13, 2012

the old ways...,

theviewfromhell | Human technology, like organisms themselves, evolved gradually along with human populations to solve problems posed by different environments. Successful technologies solved problems relating to nutrition, group cohesion, securing territory, and surviving the elements, among many others.

It is unlikely that the humans who used and gradually changed technologies throughout the ages were aware of all of the functions of their cultural package - any more than we are aware of all of the functions of our cultural package today. A cultural package would reproduce itself by working well enough to be passed down to another generation of humans. Conservatism among simple societies prevented dangerous innovations from destroying the carefully evolved cultural package, but rare successful innovations would occasionally become part of the cultural package.

Over the past several thousand years, civilization has independently occurred many times. The complexities of civilization have repeatedly added a snowballing load of cultural innovations to human groups, usually resulting in a population explosion and subsequent crash. We are currently likely near a population peak resulting from the greatest innovation snowball the world has ever known.

The cultural packages that were stable at past times did not evolve to maximize human happiness, but rather, like organisms, to maximize their own reproductive capabilities. A small band of happy foragers could expect to be overwhelmed by a cranky but fecund settlement of farmers; hence, in this example, the farmer cultural package would be reproduced more successfully than the forager package. That said, humans themselves evolved in the presence of past successful stable cultural packages (just as we evolved in the presence of prey species and parasites). Cultural packages that were stable for centuries appear to have done a decent job of providing humans with a sense of meaning and a decent level of wellbeing.

Should we go back to the old ways? This is both impossible and undesirable. The further back in time we go, the lower the population density norms evolved to support. It is unlikely that the world's present population could be supported in foraging tribes or even simple farming societies. Not only that, but the evolved cultural packages have largely been interrupted; even if we wanted to instantiate them, we would have a hard time finding out exactly what they were.

Given the search function that past humans used to "find" their cultural packages, it is likely that the cultural packages are local maxima for cultural reproductive success. They are hard-won solutions to complex problems, worked out in the computer of time and human lives; but they are not absolute maxima of anything, and they are not necessarily even local maxima of human wellbeing. Even if we were to go back in time to a pre-civilized society, it is not clear that maintaining existing traditions would be the best way to maximize human wellbeing. It is likely that there are many dimensions along which we could increase human wellbeing at the expense of environment-specific cultural reproduceability.

35 comments:

Big Don said...

Political correctness, liberal politics, & IQ-75 OOW Breeding, the Mother of all UJnstable "Cultural Packages".......

CNu said...

There is MUCH to be said for having the ability to write at a minimum baseline 8th grade level of proficiency. Absent this skill, the ability to document, measure, evaluate, problem solve, and plan is virtually non-existent. I find it shocking how many highly compensated, purportedly responsible folks - fail to meet this minimum baseline standard, yet are permitted to remain incumbent in their positions due to what, inertia, relationship, confrontation avoidance?

Tom said...

Yeah if only these self-appointed Guardians of European Culture had actually absorbed some ... or anything beyond the superior attitude.


If we were assigned to perpetuate EuroCulture by picking a cadre of commenters on this site to go down into the mine shafts a la Dr. Strangelove, who would stay and who would go?


European. African. Please.

Big Don said...

BD suspects that without the technology and machinery developed by EuroCulture, there would not be any MineShafts to go down into ala Dr. Strangelove.....

Tom said...

You may be right, though Europe was third-world until say AD 1500. They built on a foundation. Nevertheless you're managing to utterly miss the point and violently derail the discussion, which is one of a number of reasons why you're invited to stay above ground.

CNu said...

The anglosphere was 3rd world through the Victorian Era - downright Dickensian in its abuse of the poor and the expendable as the Irish who fled to the U.S. ought surely know - much of eastern europe remains third world up to the present moment, and the PIGS are in a state of precipitous decline to their formerly much more humble status. BD-instigated digression aside,...,

I'm going to return to my earlier point, I've inherited responsibility for a diverse mix of 22 IT professionals - none of whom can predictably write and communicate at an 8th grade level of proficiency. I suspect that this condition is of epidemic proportions throughout a great deal of public and private institutional life.

Our present/prevailing cultural package is unsustainable. How, if a much larger percentage of folks than are typically imagined, cannot document, measure, evaluate, problem solve, and plan at an 8th grade level of proficiency, can these folks be expected to accomodate themselves to the dramatic changes headed our way?

I only realized the true condition of my crew yesterday afternoon, so the looming implications of what I'm describing haven't had a chance to sink in fully. But right off the top, and in an instant, I was able to fathom why the masses are ruled by preachers, lawyers, and economists (trained master story tellers) - and why politicians are never held to account for failure to come to grips with the actual underlying gravity of our collective present situation.

Big Don said...

Without the IQ-160 EuroCulure invention of PRR by The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660 to gather, vet, and disseminate scientific knowledge, the whole world would still be living in something akin to the Stone Age....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society
See recommended reading below (image)


The forces cited by BD above, of a society gone disgustingly soft, is what will bring it down....

CNu said...

Tell us why and when you believe the "society", i.e., the elites who make the policy and history that sets parameters for the peasantry, went soft?

Big Don said...

Brown vs. Board 1954 trashed the public schools learning environment with uneducable disruptive LOOZer-filled classrooms, LBJ's Great Society spawned legions of IQ-75 useless eating OOW-bred parasites which became a voting block to court with more endless freebies, and promoting more criminals than can be properly prosecuted without plea-bargaining everything down to jaywalking, permission of massive illegal unskilled immigration, endless "unemployment" and "disability" benefits so folks don't have to work, culminated in every IQ-75 LOOZer deserves a home liar loans and their derivatives which have the banking system on the ropes....


Society was Healthy_And_Worked into the 1960's until the above took it's toll......

CNu said...

rotflmbao..., society was Healthy_And_Worked for who kimosabe?

Big Don said...

Providing benefits to the undeserving improved their chances of re-election...


Society was Healthy_And_Worked for those with the intellectual resources to qualify. With few exceptions, today, when you see a black person in a good job, there is a very high probability some better qualified white or Asian person was shoved aside to further the egalitarian glories of diversity...

CNu said...

Sounds to me like "those with the intellectual resources to qualify" don't mean a dayyum things to those who author history and its policies, and, who determine said "qualifications". In fact, one could argue that potato eating peasants always have and always will be trivially expendable. (athletes, entertainers, and politicians notwithstanding)

Big Don said...

If you want to ROTF and LYBAO, check out the African Space Agency proposal...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/06/sudanese-president-african-space-agency

CNu said...

lol, It must eat you alive to see joan higgenbotham and sunita williams putting in work high overhead http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Astronauts_Joan_Higginbotham_%28STS-116%29_and_Sunita_Williams_%28Expedition_14%29_on_the_International_Space_Station.jpg - or click the google space lab link today and watch sunita still busy at it https://www.google.com/ I guess old white men are relegated to the historical scrap heap of talking to empty chairs nowadays....,

John Kurman said...

Good choice for the date. What happened back then that gave impetus to all those sluggards? Oh, right! The New World. There can be no doubt that, without the bounty provided by the addition of the Western Hemispere into the mix , Europe would still be a backwater shithole. You can take that to the bank.

John Kurman said...

8th grade is about right. My brother commented that is the level of work at his and at most companies work at. My experience as well, both in Fortune 500 life, and here at the college. I got kids who seemed top have stopped their brains at 8th grade. Level of discourse on the news as well. Just short of the frontal lobes growing into the front of the brain pan.

Big Don said...

So you really think those women were absolutely *the* most qualified folks for those positions? Nah, just NASA doing the politically correct quota-filling liberal thang for PR Brownie Points....

CNu said...

Not only that, but they weighed quite a bit less than a pair of male astronauts, freeing up valuable payload weight.

Big Don said...

Pound for pound, men have greater physical strength, which you may need in an emergency. Makes about as much sense as women "firefighters" for whom the physical performance requirements are routinely bent in the hiring process, for ditto reasons above.

CNu said...

Thanks BD. That's clearly some of the finest thinking ever done out loud and in public about the requirements for zero-G operations....,

Tom said...

CNu and John, Re the third-to-first-word transition time for Europe


I think I kinda agree with both of you, but using different rulers for development. In 1500 or 1600 I think Europe more or less caught up to the First World of the time (China / India and others between Japan and East Africa who had never fallen off the main world trade routes as Europe did.). OTOH as CNu points out even 1850 England would probably rank well down into today's "Third World."

Big Don said...

Prying open stuck hatch or pulling it completely shut, releasing linkage that's binding, for example, have nothing to do with gravity...

DD said...

Too many spots in the thread to reply, chose this one.

First, the Marxist analysis is useful but not always fitting. The elites aren't ALWAYS leading everyone around by the nose. But sometimes, yes.



I'm finding none of my (upper division college) students can write well, and most lack strong critical thinking skills they're just about a decade younger than I am. But we are largely needed culturally as consumers now, the rigorous scientific education required to beat back the USSR and establish global hegemony has been won for a long time, now we need just enough education to consume. Or that's my pique of the moment anyway.

CNu said...

DD, do you consider the decline engineered or merely inertial, the result of cultural package neglect?

DD said...

I think that it is a combination. Let's not forget that most people aren't rational and sabotage themselves all the time. Intellectual constancy is stunningly rare, since it requires a well-thought out worldview and either a complete moral or practical structure. This is not unique to any one social class.

So, you may be pro-environment and anti war and anti poverty and not see the inherent contradiction, if you're Bill Gates or Weezy.

being an NTP, I think a logical, fact-based theoretical framework is necessary for any opinion or action to be anything other than pissing in the wind, and only the tiniest fraction of the population bothers to develop one and then scour it for contradiction and inconsistency. Even then, great minds can disagree, but even getting there is incredibly rare.

So I think it's mostly a clusterfuck, to answer your question.

The cultural package is serving it's purpose and functioning. It's not engineered because we've run out of stuff (the neoliberal-elite 'emergency brake' on consumption to save resources).

Did you watch the RSA video I posted above? Our job as consumers has been to buy, and we've somewhat organically migrated towards the education and cultural values that maximized that ability for us to collectively 'win the game."

Now that the game has moved on to sovereign finance, away from corporate and personal finance, I expect war, nationalism, and a socialism of necessities and a huge increase in the cost of technical goods. And I expect the hourglass to squeeze shut so to speak, freezing the castes in place.

Money's functionality as currency is breaking down, and other structural institutions are rushing in to fill the void. We will indeed move beyond capitalism in its current form, and it's gonna be a bitch to get there.

I hope that answers your question.

brotherbrown said...

I have to ask: have you pre-ordered your new I-phone yet?

CNu said...

Y'all take teh geh iPhone shyte somewheres else. This here is DROID country through and through!!!

DD said...

Um, what? Why did I bother to answer the question if this is where we are taking it? Droid, apple, peeing into a typhoon dooderz.

John Kurman said...

Fluff piece in the Atlantic about whither the iPhone? (in 2022):
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/09/iphone-5-yawn-what-will-the-phone-of-2022-look-like/262300/


iPhones reflect the totalitarian corporate culture inculcated by the late asshole Steve Jobs. Androids, on the other hand, are all about the open source society, but... as DD pointed out, you got people educated to consume, and iPhones are geared up to be just not-shoddy-enough to pass off as a distraction. As such, the iPhone probably ain't going away, even though it is incrementalism couched as transformation. Let's face it, mobiles currently are toasters. Do you really need toast? Nah. If you want toast, is there some other way besides a toaster to make toast? Yeah. But toasters are nice, especially when they are distracting, making cute little noises, and bright funny lights, and random rewards.


This is actually worth an essay, because it is fun to speculate what will happen in ten years, and it is a certainty that all the speculation in the article is probably wrong. You really going to walk around with a box in your hand? Kind of like figuring we'd carry a backpack walkie-talkie with a rotary hand phone right about now. I'm figuring wearable, but also distributed. The kids figure phones will be the size of a human cell and you talk into your hand, and wear glasses. I figure google should be spending big, big bucks on BMI hairnets. And if that Android is not a droid in ten years, then we've all wasted our time. Not just a droid, not just a collection of consumer products, or an appliance fog, but a bestiary that you are partnered with: your loyal dog, that notices more around you than you do, your two ravens, or falcons, resting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear, your faithful steed, taking you home when you are drunk, or dropping a Taco Bell lunch off for you.


The only really important items of interest in the Atlantic article are limits: energy storage and bandwidth. I would also include heat removal/recycling in there. (Currently, heat flux of chips exceeds the photosphere of the sun, in terms of ergs/sq cm). I note that the iPhone is like 80% battery, and the networks here in America suck. I suppose the little wearable devices will become symbiotic upon us (heat, motion derived energy), and, well, the bandwidth problem (see Korea) is simply economics. But the interesting thing, with the advent of computational materials science, and the commodification of quantum mechanical equations, suggests that any trends made now, will be risible in ten years. Did I say ten? Make it four.

John Kurman said...

The bestiary was metaphorical. I don't really expect to have a robot dog. I expect to have a virtual dog, that, maybe sometimes you can see too, since he can holographic. The birds, though, will be real.

CNu said...

There is a significant joke embedded in the name "I" phone,pad, pod, etc....,

The Android, OTOH, is an integrated utilitarian portal into the googlesphere. Having stood up a few hundred of each device in a mobile device management framework, the Android is virtually seamless instrument of borg orchestration and synthesis. The I-toy, on the other hand, is an infinitely personalizable hot-mess, never intended for any kind of coordinated collective use.

There is remarkable irony in the Apple vs Samsung, soon to be Apple vs. Google intellectual property lawsuits when you reflect on the profound differences separating the intended application and use of I-toys vs. the intended application and use of Androids.

DD said...

I really enjoy this site,but dang man, you never met a conversation you couldn't win. ;)

CNu said...

Win?!?!?! Dood, I thought we were collaborating on the deconstruction of cultural packages when brotherbrown pulled a drive-by and fired i-rounds in your general direction. Thanks to John, I thought we had effected a rather graceful snark recovery.

DD said...

We're not fighting, I learns ridiculous amount here (glad I caught this quick too, don't want it to simmer,) I'm just saying you are very demonstrative. Also, typing this from my iPad! What, the emoticon doesn't deliver my jocular style across the intertubes? I'd buy you a beer before half my non-digital friends my man, we're super-duper cool.

John Kurman said...

Snark? Didn't pick up on that. I was just letting my inner circus geek out of a walk - which will unself-consciously, nay, proudly, bite the heads off chickens.