Musical Chairs Theory

Playing musical chairs is about as mature as playing tic-tac-toe.

The Corporate Sister hypothesized that black women find themselves at odds with each other because corporations supply them with too few opportunities. She compared it to a game of musical chairs in which the seats are being taken away, and the players fight over what remains, naively trusting that the seating arrangement will stabilize soon enough to make the game worth playing.

The following musical chairs theory has the same form, but suggests that the opportunities are more often designed for people of certain evaluative types (e.g., jobs for creative people vs. conservative people vs. competitive people vs. empathic people, etc.), rather than for specific race or gender, but racism and sexism impact who gets opportunities that are in short supply.

As a result, if there are more than enough people of an evaluative type to fill the legitimate social positions for that specialization (e.g., natural leaders), then minorities may be under-represented in those positions and over-represented in illegitimate roles specialized to the same type (e.g., in crime). This would create an especially deep evaluativism inside minorities, where the type lacking opportunity becomes associated with illegitimacy (e.g., women and blacks believing it would be improper for them to act like Steve Jobs).

There is much to be tested about this new musical chairs theory (e.g., are black conservatives less represented than other black populations in prisons?), but it is consistent with evidence gathered thus far. Medical doctors attempt to support the diversity of cells they encounter in the human body--they do not devise foods that only neurons can process, for example--they treat the human body as a wondrous design worthy of respect. In contrast, social engineers (politicians, business builders, etc.) attempt to re-think society from scratch. Rather than set the number of jobs of each type to match the number of people of each type, they let the "market" determine what kinds of jobs will be available.

Worse, because the market also determines salaries, the people competing to secure a high-paying job designed for a creative person, for example, may also include many non-creative people. Not only does this leave us with a bunch of unqualified people in high-paying jobs, but increases the number of people who lack an appropriate job. The highly creative white guy from a wealthy family who showed promise as a scientist ends-up as a mediocre database administrator, employed out of pity. Meanwhile, equal talents in an impoverished black woman are never recognized--she is labeled "handicapped" and left to the mercy of charity.

The root problem is that modern social engineers are even less competent than medical doctors. At least medical doctors can recognize the difference between a bone cell and a muscle cell, and can convince us that both kinds are valuable. Modern social engineers cannot tell who is pretending to be something they are not, and they have failed to convince us to value our differences (e.g., between liberals and conservatives). Until we develop such basic competencies, any social engineering is as bound to be quackery as medicine was a thousand years ago.

Yet we cannot stop social engineering. We live in a world of nations, corporations and churches, so there will be allocated numbers of chairs. The only way to avoid competition is to align the allocation of chairs with our natural design. We have accumulated a debt--the debt of getting ahead of our knowledge--to pay it off we must spend on learning. We must buy competence in social engineering.

You can think of this debt as a tax. Our leaders must pay by gaining competence in social engineering, and most would do so eagerly if only educators would offer that knowledge. Educators are less inclined to offer new curriculum, but could be hired to do so if the science were clear. Scientists, however, expect to be able to research whatever they want. Even if grants were aligned with social health priorities, many sociologists wouldn't know how to do the research. More innovative people need to be recruited to the social sciences, and they need to be given more effective research tools, such as in vivo EEG data of entire social groups. 

There are parts of the world where the extended family still provides jobs, education, and conflict resolution. The game of musical chairs is less of an issue there because jobs are less defined, so the number of chairs for each specialty adjusts toward its frequency in the population. However, a creative person who serves as an artist in a tribe might have had an opportunity to serve as a scientist in a corporation. Lack of opportunities in tribes prevents fighting over them, but that is hardly a step forward.

Perhaps the major reason why other parts of the world end-up playing musical chairs is that we cling to the model set in those parts of the world. The social engineers in those parts of the world are born to their privilege, so they face no expectation that social engineering requires talent or science. Even the corporate world treats leadership as an art rather then as a science--leadership is seen less as the mundane activity of researching the nature of a society than as the glorious activity of devising an inspired vision.

The punishment we pay for failing to develop competence in social engineering comes not just as lost productivity, but also as retribution from those denied a seat. The modern buzzword for that retribution is "terrorism," though we experience the costs most in what we pay to defend ourselves from terrorism. People who have a seat do not engage in terrorism, so the only reason why we must engage in military protection is that social science is not sufficiently advanced to design a world that provides seats for everyone.

Our world spends over $250 billion on medical research each year. We should spend even more to understand social health, but instead spend less than a hundredth as much, as though expecting social leaders to work miracles (as doctors were expected to do a thousand years ago). Meanwhile, annual military spending hovers around $1.5 trillion. Rather than recognize and regulate the game of musical chairs we are playing, we fight over the chairs.

Does that sound mature to you?

4 Kinds of Love

The Greeks had four different words for love: philios, storge, eros, and agape. This post is about four kinds of eros, four reasons people pursue each other romantically:

The first reason to pursue someone romantically is the same reason we pursue our family; because they are ours. When we say, "Love the one you're with," we are recommending this kind of love. When a couple has been together for a while, this can be the eros that keeps them together. It can also be what causes best friends to fall in love. Long distance is worrisome because it threatens this kind of love.

The second reason to pursue another person romantically is because you like the way that person lives his/her life and want to be a part of it. You want to be the hero behind the hero. This attracts us to people who sacrifice themselves for others, people who are (or are likely to become) parents, who have a ministry, a charitable nature, or cause. "I get you," means I can love you in this way. Modern society makes it difficult to earn such flattery at the age of first love, so it may be more likely among couples who meet later in life. Waiting for it might be foolish, however. It's fragile; no admiration lasts forever.

The third reason to pursue another person romantically is to conquer or save that person. We see a person with power--wealth, education, confidence, or sexual power--who doesn't seem to deserve it. They don't rise to the level of responsibility we think they should; in that sense they "play hard to get," and get under our skin. Our only hope of escape from this haunting "love" is to master our oppressor, so we try to bond ourselves to him/her, not out of admiration, but because of our own inability to forgive.

The fourth kind of eros is the pursuit of being pursued. It is gratitude intense enough to rise to the level of bonding. It is the kind of love we hope to win when we feed another's vanity, and perhaps the way a vain person hopes to love. It differs from the second kind of eros in that it involves admiration for what the other person does for us personally, rather than objective admiration. It shares the same fragility and gets even more competitive as we keep looking for someone else who can make us feel even more grateful...

A culture of monogamy and marriage (and arranged marriage) is biased towards the first kind of love. Given the fragility of the alternative kinds, it is understandable that we create such cultures.

Predictive Deduction: Expanding the Arsenal of Science

Here's a lesson about promoting social change: Provide tools that are easy to use. 

A friend recently asked me for a link to my first online book, Predictive Deduction: Expanding the Arsenal of Science. It is still publicly accessible, but has fallen into the junkyard of ideas--the Internet Archives (click here to donate to this amazing service).

Developing this work took some of the best years of my life. My friend remembered when it was proudly displayed in the open; it was one of the reasons he wanted to become my friend. It was used in 1999 to make predictions that are coming to fruition today, including Google glass and the irrepressible unemployment rate. Nonetheless, there was a very good reason why this work ended-up in the junkyard, and there is a lesson to be learned, so I'd like to give a more practical account than I did in my post, Saving the World.

In addition to friendships, this work landed me an internship in a think-tank where I was given an opportunity to demonstrate my predictive method, and then to train senior engineers to apply it themselves. Their assessment was that the method appears to produce something valuable, but is too difficult to learn. They recommended that I figure-out how to build a computer to implement it.

Well, some ideas are too expensive for one person to develop alone. These ideas die unless a bunch of other smart people find the humility to abandon their own ideas and instead devote their lives to helping the self-proclaimed genius. There are a bunch of problems with this fantasy, so we need to generate less expensive ideas.

My current work on evaluative diversity is probably not as awesome as predictive deduction (although it may help society reach a point at which fewer ideas need to be discarded); however, anyone can take the GRIN Self-Quiz, and you don't need to be a scholar to appreciate it.

Have I learned my lesson? We'll see...

Gadflies, Intimacy, and God

If you have been following my research, then you know that "gadfly" is a type of person, like male or female, not just a role that one can adopt or abandon at will.

A gadfly can act like he or she is not a gadfly, but will still be a gadfly inside. In other words, to achieve emotional intimacy with a gadfly, to love a gadfly for who he or she is, one must love that he or she is a gadfly. But a gadfly is someone who challenges others, so only someone who values humility can love a gadfly intimately. Anyone who does not seek humility can have only a superficial relationship with gadflies--such a person may be committed to a gadfly, but cannot love him or her intimately.

Why would anyone not value challenge and humility?

  1. If we are already struggling, additional criticism might offer no benefit. 
  2. Challenge leads to higher expectations which in turn lead to higher failure-rates and greater incidence of depression and disappointment. 
  3. Inflated self-confidence is a self-fulfilling prophesy--it helps us secure friendships and leadership positions--and humility undermines that process. 
  4. Furthermore, humility incapacitates us by miring us in doubt, and 
  5. Anyone who associates with gadflies is sure to be stigmatized by their reputation. 

In short, there is really good reason to name gadflies after a creature which stings--they bring social and psychological pain. It's no wonder the people of ancient Athens put Socrates to death for being a gadfly!

But I want to point-out that people can have good reason to seek challenge and humility. We cannot reach our full potential without challenge, and we will be blind to certain truths if we lack humility. The wife of a gadfly told me why she stayed married to him: "Because I know what I can do, and what I can't do. The world needs trouble-makers because the rest of us don't have what it takes to fix the world without them." She didn't need to be humbled herself, but sought humility for the rest of the world.

Elsewhere I have suggested that our ability to relate to God depends upon relationship skills honed relating to humans. I wouldn't call God a "gadfly", but one cannot help be humbled upon confronting God's true nature. If we cannot tolerate intimacy with gadflies, how can we tolerate intimacy with God? On the flip-side, gadflies seeking someone with whom they can share emotional intimacy may be wise to look among the reverent. Those who can be intimate with God have the skills to be intimate with a gadfly.

I have been wondering what kind of husband and father a gadfly can be (the question humbles me). On the one hand, the wife and children of a gadfly are likely to be more humble and better able to face challenge. On the other hand, they may become overwhelmed with expectations, or may fear intimacy and transparency, having been stung.

The Gadfly Dad may suppress his true nature much of the time, fostering shallow relationships so as to avoid creating discomfort, but he cannot truly be a part of his family if he hides from them forever. One can only pray that such families find reconciliation, and that the fruits of their efforts include greater intimacy with God.

Moral Diversity

You've seen the pattern: First humanity discovered the inappropriateness of discriminating on the basis of caste and noble bloodline. Then it was religion, then race, then gender and disability. Now it's species and sexual orientation--what's next? Blind to our own bigotry, we seem to discover it form by form, calling each recognition a new stage of social advancement. Witnessing such a pattern, we have to expect that there are stages beyond what any society has yet recognized, forms of discrimination yet to discover. What is the next social frontier?

The title of this blog tells you that I am putting my money on moral diversity (a.k.a. "evaluative diversity"), gadflies being a moral type. Analysis of scripture from diverse cultures shows that we have been labeling particular approaches to evaluation as "wrong" for thousands of years. When Lawrence Kohlberg developed the first measure of moral diversity, about fifty years ago, he called the orientations "developmental stages," explicitly discriminating against people with orientations he deemed lower. Lind's Moral Judgment Test (MJT), still a major measurement tool today, is designed around the assumption that certain moral types (especially that of gadflies) are forms of incompetence. Only recently have we begun to gather scientific evidence that proclivity for these approaches is built into our genes and our physiology, just like race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Like sexual orientation, moral orientation can be hidden. As with biodiversity, the protection of moral diversity requires oppressing the empowered. These facts make moral discrimination politically difficult to regulate. Yet moral diversity is so valuable that natural selection forces societies to split almost evenly into at least four different moral types. That means everyone in a viable society is in a moral minority. We can segregate ourselves, but we will find ourselves discriminated against when we venture beyond our silos. For example, conservatives will feel out-of-place at liberal parties, flower-children will feel out-of-place in boot camp, soldiers will feel out-of-place providing childcare, and lovers will feel out of place in a cutthroat negotiation. All of those people and situations are valuable to society, so we must learn to accept diversity.

I have great hopes for the benefits we could realize by adding moral diversity to the list of forms we protect.
  • First of all, moral discrimination is probably one of the most harmful forms of bigotry. Suddenly finding your caste, race or gender changed might be a shock, but it won't destroy you--finding your moral sensibilities replaced, in contrast, is a discovery that you've entirely lost your freewill. 
  • Second of all, it seems likely that most people spend a substantial portion of their time evaluatively in the closet, so ending moral discrimination would directly benefit even more people than ending other forms of discrimination. 
  • Third, social flourishing likely requires moral diversity. Little would be lost if all people were of the same caste or color, but a society composed purely of a single moral orientation would be like an ecosystem composed purely of plants--it would consume itself. 

Nations which enter the next stage of social advancement will enjoy great rewards for the political challenges they overcome. They will rise above all other nations. Their higher social advance will attract higher technological and economic advance. And here's the kicker: While previous stages of social development have been specific to diversity among humans, moral diversity applies to artificial intelligences as well. Different machines have different moral orientations. As computers take greater roles in society, they will be most able to flourish in societies which manage moral diversity. Thus, nations with less social progress will find technical progress working against them.

Would Political Transparency Entail Moral Elitism?

Former director Michael Hayden suggested screening NSA recruits to exclude employees like Edward Snowden. This is possible because attitudes about things like transparency are not mere opinions that could change after being hired--they reflect our genes and brain structures, and that means we can recognize people like Snowden using brain scans and gene tests before hiring them.

Such screening raises some issues:

  1. People do not choose their own genes, so filtering job applicants based on genes would set a precedent very much like filtering based on race.
  2. These different gene types roughly correspond to what people call "conservatives" and "liberals", so Hayden's proposal basically means turning control of U.S. intelligence over to a political group (as in the USSR experiment with communism). 

I agree that liberals have a lot more to offer outside of the NSA--in the arts and laboratories of invention, for example--so I see value in an NSA which hires mostly conservatives. The reason I support screening of NSA applicants is to maintain a minimum of diversity (i.e. diversity quotas), to ensure that it would contain minorities who would do exactly what Edward Snowden did: limit its power. For the government to hire people like Snowden is like deploying soldiers into war zones--it is necessary, despite the inevitability of personal sacrifices, civilian casualties, and unforgivable errors. Power must be challenged.  

To be fair, this same argument might be levied against Snowden and the rest of the political transparency crowd. What kinds of politicians would survive political transparency? Would it be a diverse group, or would such an environment select for certain genes? I think it would select. Even if only 25% of voters care enough about authority and purity to respond to political transparency by voting against moral non-elites, that would be huge compared to modern voting margins. As it turns out, such people are conservatives, so political transparency would lead, ironically, to a screening very much like what Hayden proposed.

I suppose liberals might rally around exposed less-pure adulterers, flip-floppers, and compromisers, but representation for the immoral majority is not a viable platform. Any real political transparency would have to show that anyone supporting such a candidate is really just trying to hide their own corruption. Thus, political transparency would accomplish the same result as requiring genetic tests to qualify for elected office, or to vote.

Exclusive election of conservatives does not need to entail discrimination, however. Modern conservatives do not support withholding the vote by race or gender. If they likewise accepted the theory of moral ecology (i.e. that society benefits from diverse approaches to morality), then elected leaders would hire employees with diverse genes (e.g. both conservative and liberal), and would involve them in decision-making such that society would be protected from the problems of a purely-conservative government.

I think the question of whether political transparency would destroy our nation is a lot like the question of whether the invention of tools will destroy our planet. Tools make humanity the dominant species on Earth, and whether that will destroy our planet or not will depend upon whether we recognize the value of other species. By "recognize" I don't mean something as trivial as publishing scientific evidence and blog articles, I mean being willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of diversity.  That is far more difficult, but it is a possible social reform.

Skip School, or Skip Career?

In Don't Go to Grad School, Penelope Trunk argues for skipping grad school because it will not help your career:
"This is why millionaires have stopped leaving their money to their kids—it undermines their transition to adulthood. But instead of making the transition, you are still in school, pretending things are fine. The problem is that what you do in school is not what you will do in a career. So if you love school, you’ll probably hate the career it’s preparing you for, since your career is not going to school."
I've got four honors students planning their "transition to adulthood" right now, so seeing them exposed to this advice gets my attention. I agree that schools offer terrible career preparation, but I'm not so sure they waste the time of people who enjoy and can afford them. I am also skeptical of Penelope's advice not to seek a career doing what you love. I think Penelope's understanding of adulthood is growing old-fashioned (it reminds me of slavery).

I used to think my kids have to get a good job, because I will die before they do, and therefore I can not feed them forever. That logic breaks down as labor efficiency goes up: Technological advances (not just robots) will allow a single human to accomplish the labor of two, or three, or four, or one hundred humans. Eventually, that means 99% of us won't need to work, and, let's face it, at least 1% of us are workaholics who will happily support the rest.

College admission officers tell my kids that tuition is balanced by higher life-long earnings, but those calculations are based on historic availability of jobs.  I expect higher-paying jobs to continue to be awarded to applicants with higher education, but I also expect increased efficiency to make those jobs more scarce. I can understand risking debt for a chance to avoid a bad job, but there is a third option: Don't get a career at all. The day is coming when work will be optional, and my kids are welcome to bide their time living with me in the meanwhile.

You can argue that our next golden age is not so close at hand. You have a lot of control over whether it is or not--you participate in deciding how much we invest in automation, and how much of a market we create for unnecessary labor (e.g. labor devoted to fighting--think lawyers, advertisers, security officers, etc.). I think about half of the American labor market is devoted to unnecessary labor right now. If enough young people boycott the labor market, however, you may be more inclined to accelerate automation, and to reserve labor for necessary tasks. We could get very efficient very fast, if we wanted to.

Anticipation of a golden age puts pressure on employers to pay for education. Even Penelope Trunk would not object to education paid for by employers. If employers instead expect job applicants to get educated before they apply, then they will find more and more talented young people disqualifying themselves by following Penelope's advice. Industry can function with less, but missed opportunities are wasteful, and an economy run by the less-talented would be a market failure.

Reserving the final jobs for the elite matters, because the people with the last jobs will make important decisions: How will they ration resources among the other 99%? Will they penalize the fools who took on college debts they were not fit to pay? Will they penalize people in careers that disappeared early? Will they penalize people who hoarded careers expected to disappear late? Or will they penalize people who lived with their parents, and hoarded no jobs at all?

Penelope Trunk seems to think there are rules to career planning, but social change is so accelerated that those rules are no more reliable than those of love and war. If skipping school is a viable option, I'd say skipping career is a viable option too. I want my kids to be happy, and there's no time like the present. If you like school, go to school. If you like a career, work. If you don't like either, find something you do like to do. I've got good kids--if they do what they love, the world will be better off.