The Future of Governance Part 2 | Jordan Hall and John Vervaeke | Voices with Vervaeke | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "The Future of Governance Part 2 | Jordan Hall and John Vervaeke | Voices with Vervaeke".
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Welcome everyone to another Voices with Raveki. This is episode two on governance with Jordan Hall. I'm very happy to be part of this series. I think this is a very important and pertinent series. And I can't think of anyone better to be trying to wrestle with these issues about. That was a very poorly constructed sentence, but you know what I meant. And so just to remind you what we did last time and where we left off, Jordan presented a very careful step-by-step argument. He basically made use of Dave Snowden's distinction between the complicated and the complex. And whereas the complicated is basically a system that thinks it has a comprehensive management of some domain and that it has techniques that will deal with all possible risks. And therefore it sees itself as kind of a totalizing problem solver. Whereas the world is actually complex in that unlike risk, it has radical uncertainty, uncertainty that can't be simply captured by risk assessment. And there's lots of examples of where and when those uncertainty come in. They usually come in when there's irrevocable trade-offs, like the trade-off between bias and variance, et cetera. And so Jordan then went to say, once we get this, we can see that the cultural cognitive grammar of certain what we consider to be exhaustive, if not exhausting, but exhaustive dichotomies, like the dichotomy between the state and the market actually break down. Because the state and the market are basically on a continuum of whether or not we want sort of bottom-up responses or top-down responses from the state and we're constantly toggling, but they're both complicated responses to a complexity and that complexity, especially in the Anthropocene, is increasing exponentially. Because of the technologies produced by these complicated systems, they generate an increasingly complex social and physical and if not epistemic environment for us. Therefore, as we step out of that, how do we step out of that false economy and move forward? And Jordan brought forth his two notions, related notions of the commons and sovereignty. The commons is that idea of what is held in common and then it also has a historical jurisprudence aspect to it, dimension of common law. So it's not just common property, it's common law. It's things that are held in common that are nevertheless important solutions to crucial problems faced by any social group. And then he proposed the best kind of individuals in the commons to properly perhaps bring it back and make it prominent and central again are sovereign individuals.
Dialogues About Technology, Collaboration And Cognitive Theology
Dialogical reasoning and the importance of optimal constraint. (03:16)
These are individuals who value agency and have reflexively appropriated their agency in order to enhance it for its own sake as the best possible ongoing adaptive response to the complexity faced by the commons. That then led us in discussion into some examples of what this would look like. And Jordan drew from the mythos, meaning both history and myth of ancient Israel and the judges who represented this and represented governance of sovereign individuals in terms of something like common law from within the commons and how that governance worked. And then I brought up three questions. And the first is, well, why, if this is an optimal or best possible solution, why did the judges give that up for kings? And Jordan gave a preliminary answer, which he's gonna follow up on. They gave that up because there wasn't a commons between nation states and therefore there's war and then war prioritizes the king and the executive function over the judicial function. The second question was, how do we decide who becomes a judge? And I said, I gave a preliminary response, definitely not an answer to that question, which is, well, a judge should not only be able to retrospectively, insectively glean and speak on, give voice to, speak about and give voice to the common law tradition, they should also have the role of a prophet in being able to disclose pertinent and perennial problems that need to be recognized and addressed. And then the third problem, which neither one of us touched and for very good reason, which is Plato's problem and he might have been the greatest mind that we've ever had, which of course he wrestles with in both the Republic and the laws, which is who will guard the guardians, who will make sure that the judges are not corrupted. And the issue there is, and this is not in any way an insult to religion, but the mythos of ancient Israel has that God would keep the judges responsible and make them accountable, they were accountable to God. The problem we have with that and not to be insulting again is it's, we don't seem to be able to get God into that kind of role for us. And when we have created theocracies, whether the present regime in Iran is Iran, is a clear example, they have turned into very, very thuggish and horrible regimes. And so that's where we at, those are our, that's the argument. And I'll just ask Jordan, if I treated the argument fairly, the synopsis, and then we'll proceed. - Certainly, for anybody who happens to heard, you just said and had some questions, I would just recommend going back to the previous video, 'cause obviously that was a long time.
The evolution of human collaboration and the role of technology. (06:45)
We spent a lot of time on those details. And I don't think it's particularly relevant, but I would bring forward also the McLuhan piece. - Oh yes, I'm sorry. - I'm not going to do digital, which just came into my mind. Which has, we'll have relevance, I brought it in for a reason. So then we have the three questions, and just sort of to recapitulate at the very end is when we brought those up, and I sort of threw out a proposal of the answer to the first question, which had to do a little bit actually with the necessary context for the, the juridical to be functional. And if you recall, it had basically two primary elements. Well, obviously three, but I'll get to the third amendment. The first was that the relationship between the judge and those who were being judged had a very high degree of legitimacy. I mean that in the Habermasian sense. - Yes, yes. - Actual mutual respect that was lived. The people actually knew the judge, probably quite personally, probably quite for a long time, respected their wisdom and also respected the fact that this is an individual who was in their camp, that they were not, they were interested in their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the whole. And then the second is that in some sense, because that's true across the entire field, the judgments of the judge become self-enforcing. Because if you and I are in a dispute and we're in a community of 150 people and all 150 people trust the judgment of Bob and Bob passes judgment, we more or less are going to do with Bob says, because everybody's gonna line up and make sure we do. Otherwise we've got a lot more trouble. Okay, now, and then the principle of subsidiarity, which we see happening in the book of judgments with the notion that it's happening in different levels of granularity is endeavoring to be an architecture that allows those two rules to be maintained even across larger groups. - Yes, yes, yes. - Okay, so what I would propose is that we run into two problems that violate those principles, both at the microcosmic and at the macrocosmic boundary. So at the macrocosmic boundary, of course, we have the basic problem that between groups that don't have real community, between, for example, two nations, the notion of judge can't happen. Those boundaries have to be settled through some other process either diplomacy or conflict. And to the degree to which those kinds of circumstances are arising more often than less often, the role of those who are able to maintain those boundary conditions, which I will say is king, or executive function becomes more and more and more important. And of course, lots of things happen when a given role is elevated. And so if you start being in a situation where kings become critical for the survival of your group, then you find yourself in sort of a wartime economy all the time and that changes the underlying dynamics. It literally breaks down the construct of the, the subsidiarity. - Right, right, right, right, right, right. - It makes sense. I can go into that if it's not clear. And then the microcosmic boundary has to do with what happens when, and I've used this concept and I'm not sure if it's quite a land, but I make a distinction between society and community. - Yes. - Yeah, great, so in community, it's relational, all relationships are in fact actual relationships. In a robust, but not, the classic example is straight up an indigenous tribe, and that is a community at the highest level, meaning everybody knows everybody else quite intimately, quite likely since the day they were born, and in fact knows all the members of their family at that level of intimacy, so it's very, very rich. But even if you just think about the notion of a small town where you have, you know all of your neighbors, first and last names, something like that, not even that level of intimacy, but still pretty high, community. By contrast, society is something where relationship is mediated by some kind of formal structure. - Is social contract? - Right, there's some kind of social contract that's enforced in some ways. Is that what you mean? - Sure, sure, and mediated in certain ways. So money as an example. - Yes, yes, yes. - Money is a really interesting form of social contract, we literally have all goods, public and private, you know, all debts, public and private, we have an agreement that that piece of paper or whatever represents the settlement of what otherwise would be an in fact relational debt. - That's right, that's right. - Now, we can study the dynamical tensions here, that society has a variety of competitive advantages over community. The money example is a great example. If I can engage in economic transactions with a very large population, by virtue of using money, I have a vastly larger Metcalf's law, productivity dynamic, then if I can only engage in relationships with people who I actually know well, right? So there's an advantage. We can name many, many, but the point is that society has lots of different advantages. And as we move into society, one of the things that happens is we move away from the principles that require, that adjudication is premised on. So as the kingdom of Israel and Judah, move into an increasing amount of conflict, right?
How potent ephemerality could reshape the way we work together. (12:30)
Of course, the whole point of the story is that, one of the whole point of the story, but a big part of the story is when they move into the promised land, they immediately go to genocidal war. And then second, they start moving into a lot of ordinary kind of nation-state dynamics where there's lots of social things going on. And I would propose those two tensors move them and move us anytime from a deeply, I want to say, context-rich, juridical environment into a content-based executive group and then ultimately we then start trying to move it into the legislative domain, maybe try to actually begin more and more to move rule out of the rule of individual people into formal systems, contracts, agreements, institutions, et cetera. - So this is, I guess, like a derivation from the point you were making last time about the shift from common law to code, like the Napoleonic code, right? And of course, the reason for the Napoleonic code is you have mass armies, you get the first mass society and you're replacing common law with something that can be applied in a standardized way to a nation-state that requires mass armies that are moving often far afield and all the various reasons for, like, Napoleon wasn't doing it because, "Oh, you know, he was doing it for some very, very important reason." - Well, you also have far-flung empire, which have very different cultures that are going to be integrated into a single governance structure. You have logistics that have to be managed through juror, just an accounting system. So all of that machinery, which is, by the way, complicated machinery, is that move. So these pieces all, they all begin to fit together quite nicely. So then the proposition or the inquiry would be, is there something about our emerging context, this, for example, this digital transition that allows us to consciously, by design, restore the intrinsic of the juridical? I would propose, I made an argument last time for why it actually undermines the principles of the legislative, which we can get to if we'd like. And but also does so in a fashion that quite significantly decreases the position of the executive as well. So that would be sort of my further explication of the response to the first question. - So let's stick with the first question. Let's just like, and we'll try and divide it up and give time to each. But I'd like to drill into this one a little bit more. So what would you say to somebody that says, well, what the digital thing is doing is, yes, it is undermining the priority of the executive and the legislative, but it is also doing that with judicial. Everybody's opinion is equal. What we're actually in is a loss of all three. And what this medium does is give us a genuine kind of anarchy in which all that happens is ephemeral waves of popular opinion that destroy reputations or promote people to wealth in a way that's usually not morally justifiable. Now, I don't believe all of that is comprehensively, but I wanna make something that sounds at least plausible about how it's showing up for us now that would then make a request for you. Like, how would you sharpen the proposal in order to deal with somebody who said, look, what I see is I see the anarchy of, like I say, ephemeral waves of popular opinion that punish or reward people for often completely irrelevant, at least not morally justifiable reasons. - Well, I mean, the short answer would be a relatively high level first, and that would be something like, there's nothing about anything that I know, by the way, in reality, but certainly nothing about the nature, the digital that inevitably will put us in a particular location. And we're talking about the opening up of a frontier of new possibilities. And there's many different things that can happen on that frontier. The argument I would make is that the form of governance that I'm proposing is on that frontier and was not available in a previous context. - Right, right, right. - It's a possibility that is emergent. And then the second argument that we present is, we're very much in the turmoil of transition. We are radically moving away from, what I call peak literacy, in many cases, peak complicatedness. We really, really try to govern every aspect of the world using a managerial mindset and using very complicated bureaucratic institutions, and frankly, even technological machines to do so. - It is. This brings up another false dichotomy between surveillance capitalism and surveillance communism. Again, where they're both moving into Foucault's panopticon, right? Where they're just more and more surveilling everybody and everything and collecting metadata and manipulating people's salience and their desires as they see fit.
The risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence in collective intelligence. (17:54)
- Yeah, and so to that point, what I would say is that we've both, both in a very legible historical sense, with the enclosure of the commons at the level of property, but even more broadly, we have been suffering for the past half a millennium, a almost complete erasure of the commons. And I mean that both in terms of our habits and institutions and psychology of how to govern ourselves in this common fashion, as well as the actual infrastructure that once was necessary and present to hold that third piece, right? So as long as we are sitting in this false dichotomy, and of which there are many examples, the movement away from the, into the digital, for example, and there are many other things, that's one driver, we'll tend to have a chaos producing effect, 'cause it will undermine the pseudo stable constructs that we built here, but there's no way for us to get to stability. The stability I would propose is actually, to recognize there is a third piece, and once you can actually say that, then the challenge is, well, okay, how do we design it? It's a challenge, it's a natural, we don't, we no longer, I think we actually mentioned this previously, we were born with an indigenous level of basic commoning, but we're no more longer anywhere near the indigenous context. So we can use that analogically, and we can rely on some of the fundamentals, but we now actually have to engage in a design process. We have to be consciously creating a context that recapitulates the notion of a commons. My friend Michelle Balan's actually has a beautiful name for it, it goes with the magisterium of the commons. Is that a good name? As this third, and I would say not just third, but also more fundamental ground. And then the challenge I would, I think of it in my mind is, and how do we do this with premise that a lot of the things the tools we'll be using are really new tools, like IE, and new technologies that are say 10, 20, 30 years old, will likely play an important role, because they're part of whatever future we're gonna deal with and their new possibilities that we haven't been able to tap into yet. - Okay, okay, so let me play with this a bit. I'm hearing in this, what you're seeing in the digital world, the virtual world is not essential. It could be historically contingent because we're in a transition period. And therefore, we should look to the proposal that the digital could, yes, I think this could home the commons, and what we need to do is think about what are the ways in which the digital is different, some of its different powers that might give it the capacity to do what you propose. So a couple come to mind right away.
Exploring the concept of distributed cognition and its potential benefits. (21:08)
We've talked about this before. The distinctions between public and private and between spoken and written are breaking down in this medium. Those are breaking down. And so the old forms of governance were built around those economies, the public. Is this a private conversation or not? Well, it is and it isn't. Is this just, I feel like we're in the Phaedrus here. Is this just speaking or is this something written? Well, right now it's spontaneous between us, but it has the permanency of writing. And it can be watched by other people. People will have access to this if they wish after we're dead. And so it has a lot of properties of writing as well. And then we have the possibility that the digital world is itself organized, not hierarchically, but as a small world network, which has different properties to it that could perhaps be actualized. So those, I think, are three relatively clear instances of why this is different and why we have to consider the very real possibility that it has a potential for homing the commons. So is that landing okay so far? Yes, very good. They just feel like the things that stack. Let me throw a few more. Please. So one is, and it's funny because in many cases, much of what we'll bring up has a, like a sharp edge as well as a blunt edge to it. So the sharp edge of what I'm about to say is that one of the characteristics of the digital is that it radically reduces the relevant value of knowledge, or specifically information. Right, right, right. As we witnessed, it used to be the case that there was a whole bunch of stuff that, if you didn't know it, you just couldn't access it. You and I both remember the time before the internet where if you didn't happen to have an appropriate reference document, a big, thick book, we just were left, you're stuck. If it wasn't in your memory, it was a done deal. And of course, with the burgeoning of AI, which is now upon us, we'll continue to expand, we're moving into a period of time where knowing things or having distinct pieces of information isn't going to be a thing anymore. Like you just can inquire and the digital will hold that information. This puts a very different premium. The premium now actually very much is grounded on wisdom. And how do we actually apply information into or into knowledge if we want to use that distinction and to guide proper action, which the machine will never be able to do. So that's a piece, right, that shift. And that shift is very similar to that shift between the legislative and the judicial. It's a shift from human beings being mediocre machines that kind of memorize a little bit into human beings are in fact exquisite choice makers, right, have high discernment. Really good relevance, realizers. Right. That shift is fraught because of the good work on the knowledge illusion, which is that people confuse having accessed information with actually having knowledge about some topic. This is a reliable result. And of course, as you may expect, it's not much of a prediction, but it's never less of a legitimate prediction. The internet and social media make that worse. So people, so I mean, right. And then it interacts with other cognitive biases. For example, there's that effect. And then there's this digital world allows for the reinforcement bias with pseudo confirmation.
How the emerging technologies could harmonize with theological expectations. (24:56)
So we used to rely on the different members of the tribe being independent individuals who would speak their mind to us. Now what we can do is we can select literally thousands of people who have exactly our viewpoint and therefore convince ourselves that our view is true, that the British royal family are actually lizards and their main base of operation is on the moon or something like that. Antarctica. Oh, Antarctica, sorry. It's hard to keep track of the conspiracy theories today. Right. And of course, and then the dark side of that dark side is there are actual conspiracies and bad faith actors. And they know about this noise and they know how to use this noise to cover their tracks. And all of that is sort of right now. So it seems like there is a-- and I've been thinking about this. Give me a moment. This may seem orthogonal, but I'll bring it around. I promise. I've been working with a lot of people, Nathan Vanderpool and Robert Gray and others. What are the domains for which we would want-- what are the domains in which a person needs to show enhanced capacities of understanding, discernment, and shaping their agency in order for the training of wisdom to occur? And so we talk about sort of mindfulness domains. And then there's imaginal domains. There's dialogical domains. And there's movement domains. Nathan has coined the acronym DIME to represent sort of the consensus that's emerging around this. But I've been also-- and this comes from a conversation I've been having with a really interesting individual, Varun, one of my patrons. And he is proposing that another proper domain is digital management. Namely, going in and finding out how to use your interface machinery to take more appropriate control of how your salient landscape is being manipulated by the digital world. And that this is actually a powerful way. So the argument is, well, these ways in which other people are manipulating you for political and economic ends are effective because of the way we interface with the digital world. Well, instead of just being passive victims of that, we could be-- I'll use your term. We could be sovereign agents about it. And we could go in and learn how to properly appropriate that so that we use it to shape our salient landscaping into how to better interact with the digital world. So that there's a-- and so it seems that would involve some knowledge of these dangers that I've mentioned, like the knowledge, illusion, echo chambering, the way algorithms are trying to push us into simplistic narratives of villains and victims and heroes and villains and stuff like that. And that, therefore, part of what we'd be looking for in our judges is something that is non-traditional. Presumably, the traditional judges were good at all the dime things, but now we need them also to be good at this other thing. They have to be-- they have to be savants of how to appropriate your social interfacing, your social media interfacing, your digital interfacing so that you can bend it individually and collectively towards the good, so that you can be tempted by the good rather than tempted by the self and other destructive. So I'm going to put that out as a response. Well, let me bundle these for a moment, because I feel like it's nice to deal with something like the practical. Last time we talked about the notion of the new literacies.
The significance of transaction costs in the new collaborative environment. (29:12)
Yes, yes. And I would just want to point out, for anybody who happens to be watching, that we, societies and cultures, have a long history of cultivating capacities in people, for example, being able to read and being able to write. And in fact, if you just sort of zoom in on this notion of education, we have had no trouble for generations forcing children to spend eight hours a day for whatever, a decade and a half or two decades, to cultivate the capacities and skills necessary to run our civilization machinery. So we're having a conversation at that level. And what we're talking about is, what are the new literacies? What are the new capacities? I would propose that the mechanisms and techniques of content and capacity cultivation of the literacy era, that the previous era are no longer valid and no longer correct. But a level of commitment to cultivate the technologies of sovereignty or the literacies of the new era is going to be, say, perhaps equivalent. And so we shouldn't be demoralized if we think like the list of things we need to produce in people, to be able to endure the transition into this new age seems large. It probably is. We have to actually produce people who can navigate this new context, which is a very powerful and novel context. Fair enough. That's a good point. I just want to say that's a good point. I would say also that I would start with the notion of these minimum viable levels of sovereignty across all the different points you brought up. Dime plus, is that we're doing now? Dime plus? Yeah, yeah, yeah. It equals just person or citizen, that the notion of judge would be something like, perhaps quite good at that and acknowledged thereby, which is interesting because now you get both a pedagogical as well as a juridical. And you can think about that almost in the context of your friend Socrates. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Actual legitimacy in the domain of wisdom is both a pedagogical and a juridical role. It has to be. And a prophetic role and a prophetic role. And a prophetic role. It's bound. It's intrinsic. Things fit all together. Like the natural orientation is, if I identify an individual as being meaningfully upgrading of me in virtue, wisdom, courage, sovereignty at large, then one, I'm going to want to learn and emulate. Two, I will be satisfied by their perspectives on questions that are above my pay grade. And three, I will be looking to them to help me orient my choices in the forward direction and us in general. So that's nice, actually, because what it says is that we kind of have a single problem, which is how do we cultivate sovereignty in all people to the optimum level? And we have another nice thing, which is that there is a synergy effect to the degree to which we do that well and to the degree to which we do that with led to ability or clearly, then people will tend to self-organize along that gradient. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Right. So I think that's very good. What I wanted to just emphasize from my previous point is, we can't use our standard set of cultural exemplars, like Socrates, for example, who are picking out these people. Because being Socrates is insufficient. Like, for me to say that is a hard thing to say. But given the new powers of the digital, the new perils of the digital, and the new pedagogical capacities of the digital, the wise person, or the exemplary person, or however we want to put it right now, is going to look like those past individuals, but also not like them in very important ways. All of those individuals are post-axial, and therefore they are bound to the age of literacy in a very powerful way. And one of your main arguments last time was that we are passing out of that at least printed literacy or written literacy or alphabetic literacy. I don't know how we want to stabilize it. And we're moving into something else. And therefore, the kind of sage is-- I would propose to you the following.
The power of diverse dialogues and the importance of proper constraint. (34:01)
As different as the axial sage was to the pre-axial sage, we're looking for an individual who's as different to our current stages, current models of sages. There'll be continuities. The past will be helpful. But the past can also, and in some important ways, be potentially blinding. That's the point I wanted to try and land on. And so I feel like we're confronting one of LA Paul's transformative experience. We don't know what it will be like until, right? But we also don't know what we're missing if we don't find those individuals other than in a purely negative sense. Anyways, do you understand the problem I'm trying to put out? Absolutely. I think it's quite beautiful. And I was just contemplating it and reflecting on the-- I guess the beauty of it, actually. I see it as a beautiful thing because it invites a new possibility. The other thing I was thinking about was a character who I quite like, which I believe is-- her name was Dioteima or Dioteima. Oh, yes, from the symposium, of course. Because she represents precisely the pre. His Socrates' teacher. Remember, Socrates is on the cusp of literacy being reintroduced into Greek thought. Plato is in the midst of it, and Aristotle is in the other side of it. And so we have actually a quite nice thing. Dioteima is only vaguely visible. And a quaint Socrates with the Daemon. So this is a very-- what is the Daemon? We'll hold it down. What makes this computer work is technically called the Daemon. It's moving the packets back and forth between our computers. So it's an interesting kind of a magical, shamanic invocation that will be-- there will be references or a bit of the aesthetics of that will be part of what we're talking about. That would be a recovery of a lot of things. Like, how do you deal with-- how do you deal with things that are obviously vastly more powerful than humans? Yes. I have an agency that is not like a machine. Yes. I mean, and this comes back to the spirituality of the digital world that you and I have talked about. And Jonathan, Pajo, and I have been talking about-- Yes. Right. Right. And that we need a kind of theoretic capacity in individuals. And there's also the possibility. This is, again, giving some due credit to Beren. The possibility of, well, we could create sort of virtual Socrates that were in the background of the conversation you and I are having. And what they do is they do good deep learning on patterns that were generative and patterns that are not. And they do slight nudging of the salience landscape and as we're talking, to help us get in to these patterns and get into them more reliably, perhaps even nudges into zones of proximal development where we could-- so there's ways of having distributed virtual Socrates's working within the AI to help us. Yeah. Let me make sure to do the formalism on that point. So Larry Lessig, in the context of how we govern ourselves, proposed three distinct kinds-- laws, norms, and code. And norms we get-- and norms, by the way, is harkening all the way back to the indigenous. Yes. Yeah. Just laws. And now we're saying that that's the things that are written down, the things that are the object of literacy. And the point that he made was that code, up until relatively recently, was the received physicality of nature. Drop a rock, it drops. I don't have to think about that. We govern ourselves tremendously by virtue of leveraging that. I just want to interrupt to make clear. We're not talking about code in the same sense as the Napoleonic code. No. Yes, exactly that distinction. Yeah. OK. So when the Napoleonic code is in the category of laws in this new tribe that I just introduced. Right. And OK, so the point that he made at that time is that we've now moved into a new realm. We're humans by means of creating technologies. We change technologies, change code. They change the laws of nature. They change what the physical environment can do or how it will behave in increasingly human-designed ways. And an example that I came up with to help sort of land this is we have a rule, which is whenever you park your car on a hill, you should always turn your wheels away from the slope of the hill. So you roll back and hit the curb. Under the regime of norms, this would just be something that kind of everybody knows. And if you don't do it, somebody, a neighbor, somebody walking by, a person in the car will tell you. And if you fail to do it more than once, there will be a shunning or a negative consequence happening at the social level. The laws we're very familiar with, right? Some empowered agent, an exponent of the executive function, will monitor the fact that you violated a provision that is written in a legal document-- by the way, specifically down to degrees of slope and angle of wheels-- and then cite you appropriately, so as to modify your behavior. In the realm of code, let's say for example, you happen to have a new Tesla, the car just does it. Yes, yes. It just happens. It's now baked into the physicality of your world. So that triadic distinction also helps because it maps very close to this notion of the transition from writing into digital. It's also a transition from laws into code in this fashion. What you were describing is one example, our digital Socrates, this is an infrastructure, like a code element that is now supporting our capacity to engage in dialogue in a way that is no longer operating at the level of human habit or even necessarily human capacity. A simple example which will happen soon is I could be speaking French right now. A Google translate that's able to operate in real time and you could be translating it so that you're hearing it in English and I'm hearing you in French and we're none the wiser. That's a trivial example of it will likely happen. And that's a big change in what's possible. Now, of course, this puts an enormous burden on designing that stuff well. But it does change things. We're now sitting on top of a scaffold of tremendous capacity. And we're no longer-- humans are no longer being asked to be mediocre machines. We're being required to become really, really good humans and also to design really, really good machines, which is a different kind of problem. So there's a digression. I just kind of want to-- No, no, I-- -- layer that in. That was not aggressive at all. I think laying that out gives us some important language to talk about. And then-- It's also a big part of how we solve that third question. Who will guard the guardians? Yes. And yes, because maybe we-- again, no, I do not mean anything sacrilegious.
The challenge of satisfying the primate brains need for recognition and status. (41:30)
Maybe we create digital gods that guard the guardians in some important fashion. At least procedurally. Because we have the possibility of very sophisticated, very complex-- I think that might be the right use-- because they're dynamically changing and shifting and evolving, shifting of multiple simultaneous soft constraints, rather than any kind of draconian do this, don't do that, or simplistic algorithm just moving us to buy this product or not. It could be-- we have these systems that, by design, don't care what we're talking about. But-- Exactly. --only care about how we're doing it and trying to afford us the tracking through that state space in the most discerning possible way. Educating us by implicit learning, which is the kind of learning, and in culturating us and helping us with that project. I'll give you a concrete example that's present in very moment. And by the way, the high-level theory or principle here is something like constraint design-- Yes. --or niche construction. Yes, very much. Yeah. We can cultivate a constraint, a set of constraints, enabling and disabling constraints, that shape the space-- that we are then now able to navigate. Yes. There's two different phases, and the phase is partitioning the problem in a way that it's tractable. So you're probably familiar with the recent-- how did I say kerfuffle? It's the nice way of describing it-- with the publishers of Rode-Doll and now In Fleming, changing the content of their works. Yes. Yes. Yes. And by the way, doing a push update to all digital versions, such that I think as of even now, all Kindle versions of the In Fleming books are changed. OK. Well, there is a technology that we're both familiar with called the blockchain. And in fact, there's actual a product called Canonic that sits on top of the Bitcoin blockchain that categorically solves this problem. So if we try to solve it through norms, we're going to be in trouble. It's hard. How do we convince people not to behave this way? If you try to solve it through laws, we get into the challenge that we've been in now for the past 100 years, which is the war in the interest war, in the interior of the legal regime to game the democratic system to be in charge so that you can decide what the laws are. But if you design something like Canonic or the Bitcoin blockchain, a book uploaded to that is now unmodifiable. Right. No matter what, it is what it is. And if it is modifiable, the modifiability is now written in technology, which is objective. It's very clear what it is. And that has a different texture to it than the previous two modes. So that's an example of the kind of thing that we will be doing more and more of, is trying to understand what are the enabling and disabling constraints. How do we create effectively a version of Rawls behind the veil environment? Design something that we're all like, OK, that creates the landscape where our incentives are aligned. And then we instantiate it in code. And the thing about code that is different than the guardians is it doesn't have any self-interest. Yes. It doesn't actually have any agency. And the problem with institutions is that institutions are 100% actually humans. And humans have interests. And so I was rereading Carol Quigley's discussion about the movement, the inevitable movement of what he calls instruments to institutions. And the way he describes it is that an instrument is a coordination structure that allows human beings to coordinate and collaborate in such a way as to further some kind of macro goal that is of some social value.
The role of legitimacy space in building effective collaboration structures. (45:23)
But the problem is that in the interior of that instrument is a very large number of people who will inevitably begin to have micro goals. Of course. And this is the guardian with the watchman problem at the micro level. The instrument doesn't have the capacity to-- by the way, there's a good reason, there's a proof of why it can't possibly have the capacity to produce policing over its micro components adequate to prevent those micro components from beginning to diverge their micro goals away from the macro goals. And there you go. It will evolve eventually into what he calls an institution. For him, an institution is a per se bad thing, just as a dis-indiguation issue. But this doesn't happen in this category that people are now calling hyperstructures, which is interesting, by the way, as a word, because it mirrors hyper object and interest to it. Very much. Very much. If I build a tool, a hammer, the hammer does not have self-interest. How it's used is a different kind of thing. But the hammer does hammering. It is an instrument, qua instrumentality. And it does what it does and does not change. Same thing with the calculator. And so that's a profound distinction. And that, I think, is a big part of how we solve Plato's-- well, our third question is we build hyperstructures that are properly designed to allow us to produce instruments, but do not allow us to produce institutions. That's well said. I like that. That seems to then require-- and this maybe is more towards the second question. I think we need to also amongst ourselves-- I don't know if we have to properly cultivate hyperagents in the way I use that term-- hyperagents that can interact with these hyperstructures upon hyper problems and hyper objects. And then I think that has to do again with-- and this is something I've been working more on, so I may talk too much about it. But is the idea of replacing hierarchies with the kind of organizational structure and functioning we see in the cortex, which is something like you have levels. Here's the level that's directly interacting with the world. And you want to isolate it between differentiating into small groups that have specific interactions that come together, try to synchronize, and then they particularize. And this is relevance realization happening in this dynamic self-organizing fashion. And then you bring in the predictive processing. A layer above this is not a layer trying to have a higher vision of the problem. This is very different. So don't think of this as a hierarchy. The job of the layer above is to try and predict what the layer below is going to be doing.
The potential of ephemeral instantiations in collective problem-solving. (48:35)
And thereby help guide it and say, you've done this in the past. It looks like you're going to do that. And it affords foresight to the layer below. But the layer below also gives corrective feedback up and say, no, no, we weren't planning on doing that at all. We're actually going to do this. And then the people, that layer above, and then you go higher and higher levels. And you're not getting up-- you're not going up the social dominance hierarchy. You're getting more recursive mapping, because it turns out when you do that, and you let the error signal and the pattern projection signal self-organizing this multiple fashion, the lowest level gets this tremendous set of dynamic constraint construction on how it tries to interact with the world. And so-- and I'm actually trying to work with Nathan and others to try and build like running some organizations this way. We actually did it sort of implicitly at the respond conference and now try to make this more explicit. And then, of course, that structure creates a hyperagent, right? They can deal with hyperobjects. And then we could conceivably, I think, interweave the hyperstructures with that kind of layered dynamic hyperagent in order to really confront the hyperobject hyperproblems. I'm planning right now. Yes. I don't want to get too many prefixes into it. But there's a very specific-- it's funny, this is like our very first conversation. There's a very specific version of what you're describing that takes as this objective, unique focus, this layering and designing of hyperstructures. Yes. But when you design a hyperstructure, the designing of it is quite important. Very, very precise. And so you're going to need to have a hyperagent that has that as a sort of a sacred responsibility. If done well, you can then can offload all of that into this hyperstructure, be quite confident that we'll do it repeatedly and with high precision. Yeah, exactly. You can make it recursive. Then the hyperagent goes into the hyperstructure and gets booted up again. And you can keep cycling. I just want to make it clear also that at every level, it's also doing that oscillation. Each level is doing the collective relevance realization. So-- Ah, and this makes sense. This way and this way. It's doing-- and then, like I say, like you say, you then design-- this is very similar to what I talked about when I talked about neural enlightenment for-- neural enlightenment for individuals. You devise the facilitatory hyperstructure. And then you then situate the hyperagent in it and you bootstrap it up in a synergistic fashion. And I think this holds a lot of possibility of explicating the powers of this medium and also deriving possibilities that we can only think of in a very abstract fashion. How this will actually cash out will be really, really powerful and interesting. And I would put it to you and I put it to you way back when we started, that this is going to require a reconfiguring of human spirituality. Because these kinds of interactions are even within just the interpersonal. I know this. They're already-- they take on these huge spiritual religious dimensions. And they're going to create these hyperstructures that are sort of the angels constraining our logos. And then we're going to interact with hyper objects. People are going to-- their phenomenology is going to be charged with a kind of new monosity and spirituality that has to be properly educated so it unfolds virtuously rather than viciously. Quite. Yes. And we even have a little bit of a poetic reference. We're talking about this Socrates diatima Aristotle. What we're quite likely-- I would say I would predict that we are moving into a-- in this new era is a reawakening or re-fifification, revitalization of many of-- as we said, things like religion and spirituality. We're moving into something akin to a theological moment because that's the appropriate mode for the sets of things that we simply must do. And I suspect, by the way, the fashion that will be very interesting and I think also quite beautiful, it will harmonize with the theological expectations of those who really still harken to what we typically call theology.
The theological implications of the new mode of interaction between people and technology. (53:23)
And we'll also be doing new and interesting things. I would say that, by the way, it has to. Let me just throw out two more points, I think, before I think we may be done, unfortunately, at the time. Yeah. Got a little bit of impressed. One, another thing to put on that stack. So we've got things like Dime Plus and these new technologies, they've got to actually leverage code in powerful ways. And the thoughtful constraint design, I don't know if we've got a name for it, I've always just been calling it the stack, but that set of things that are akin to how the brain works. Another characteristic of this new environment is everybody is potentially available. And we have very close to new transaction costs, which is a very novel environment.
Concepts Of Effective Collaboration And Their Future Implications
The concept of potent ephemerality and its implications for future collaborations. (54:30)
And an example might be, this allows us to do something which is a potent ephemerality. And that's a very new thing. And look a little bit like a jury, by the way. So in the contemporary environment, at least, I don't know if it works this way in Canada, in the US it works, is that if a case is potent enough, a jury will be in panels. Yeah, yeah, we do the same thing. I always get thrown off any potential juries when they find out I have philosophical training. Yes, me as well, for a variety of reasons. Not necessarily to my displeasure. So imagine a circumstance where you have the ability to have something like a very fine-grained awareness of the capacities of everybody. And by the way, they're a location in, it's called legitimacy space. And you're building these structures at different levels. And you can simply invoke, I need 300 people with this set of capacities who can organize in a different fashion. I can import these certain kinds of hyper-structured tools. And I can create an ephemeral instantiation, many of whom, by the way, may have done this sort of thing many times. Many of whom may have done it very few times, but they need to learn. You can have multiple different values supported at the same time. They come in, they do the thing they need to do, and they output the result they need to output. And then they just go back to whatever they were doing. Let's say every human being commits to a certain fraction of their time being available for these kinds of structures. You could do that. In fact, I would say it's likely that we will do that. And it'd be very powerful. I've seen an individual in Stanford who, unfortunately, his name escapes me, who did this very powerful process where he could take just random people off the street, run them through the process so they would have domain experts. And then the group at the end would render their evaluation of some particular problem. And it was consistently the case that the group at the end would produce a richer and more profound output than, for example, if you just asked experts. Oh, if you could track down that research, I mean, that would go very much into the helping me, the book I'm writing with Dan. She happened. Oh, right. I'm sure that I can. Yeah. OK, that would be-- I would really appreciate that. Because this goes towards the increasing argument that distributed cognition is generally better.
The superiority of optimally constrained dialogical reasoning over monological reasoning. (56:59)
If properly-- if properly-- If properly constrained. If properly constrained. But here's the way to put it. That's accurate. If we optimally constrain monological reason and we optimally constrain dialogical reason, dialogical reason will be better than a monological reason. Oh, very nice. Yes. And as we're witnessing right now, you and I aren't in the same place. No. So if you think about that in terms of just the magnitude of possible dialog that's currently available in the world in comparison to where it was a decade ago or two decades ago. I mean, just for a second, I try to do the calculus. I'm trying to go out maybe a quadrillion. That's a lot. It's just a matter of constraint. And then the right kind of hyperstructures that aren't operating under the logic of bureaucracy in the logic of market, which lead to all kinds of terrible results, but are actually operating under the logic of the measure steering of the commons. And this thing begins to boot itself. Just a little hand-wavering for sure, because it's a lot of hard work, but it's a path. OK, so I'm going to leave us with another question for our third installment. It seems that we're going to run up against a really powerful form of resistance, in that these kinds of things we're talking about seem to remove the status and recognition machinery that is hardwired into the primate brain. If we're all equally talking to each other, how do we satisfy our need for it to be recognized and have status and have influence?
Upcoming Questions On Evolving Collaboration Models
A question for the next installment: reconciling ephemeral contributions with recognition and status. (58:38)
Why do we not just disappear into being small cogs in an ever-growing machine in which we are easily replaceable because of the ephemerality of our contribution? So that's the nature of, I think, of the problem we need to confront next time. Nice. All right, great. Thank you so much, my friend. Yeah. I look forward to seeing you in person at long last.