15 December 2007

The divisions in American political ideology

This political season is seeing the end of the Cold War political blocks that have ruled the Democratic and Republican parties since the late 1960's. Prior to that the Post-WWII politicians, remembering the problems of that conflict and needing to sustain a front against International Communism, put many things aside to have that united front. That united front disappeared when the Democratic Party embraced socialistic ideals in the 1960's and then put forward blatant anti-American themes about Vietnam, capitalism, American culture and the attempted to re-interpret American history in a purely negative cast. The Republican Party faltered by not confronting those moves, as was done against the 'New Deal' programs of FDR, and embraced a stance that put American industries first ( 'If it is good for GM, it is good for America') in political policy along with adopting internationalist free trade policies that may be good for industry, but do little to help advance and secure human liberties anywhere.

The upshot of these views was something that would come to rest in the US political structure that would become: anti-Nationalist (that horrid word vilified by the Left and used to demean on the Right), anti-liberal (in the old 'using human liberty to make a better life for oneself') and anti-democracy as there was embracing of thugs on the Left and Right who were not running states that tending towards liberal, democratic or western values. Between 1968 and 2000 it was very hard to find a candidate that put forward the founding, traditional values of America that embraced citizenship as a duty to the Nation, that held the Nation's trade accountable to society to let other societies know we did not support anti-liberal systems, and that US friends and allies need the greatest openness of our society so that we can grow closer together in our forthright holding that liberty is the key value that upholds democracy and free exercise of rights within Nation states.

Many of these views had been started far before 1968, of course, and many dating back to the early 20th century 'progressive' movement to try and counter socialism by changing the structure of democracy and the government within America. That shift removed the idea that central government had little role to play in day-to-day life and would put, in its place, 'activist government' as a centerpiece of the 20th century. This conception would denigrate pre-20th century views as archaic and meaningless and yet put no firm foundation of structure for what these new views actually were. By the year 2000 the ability to even teach the fundamentals of American society and history had so declined that most citizens did not even know that this had been done. That inculcation of the 'progressive' views and towards activist government would lead to an era of great change, but no progress in the firm foundations of the Nation and even to retrograde movement in that realm.

From these things would come the Transnationalist set of views on the Left and Right that were in strict opposition to the idea of Nationalism, human liberty supported by Nations and that individuals had duties, obligations and accountability for their actions at all scales of human interaction from the interpersonal to the international. John Fonte would look first at Transnational Progressivism, and in some detail, before turning that view to the Transnational Right. In each of the two political parties these forms of outlook worked to erode away the traditional values of liberty, freedom and accountability, and start putting in place a larger view that would reduce the US and all other Nations to the fiat of Transnational controlling organizations. The foremost of these would be in the indoctrination area of trade and economics that would put two dogmatic schemas forward: international socialism and free trade capitalism.

While most on the Right point to the UN for the former, those on the Left will point to the WTO on the latter, but neither side will bring up that these are voluntary associations of the Nation via treaty: they are not set in stone and only have any force so long as those treaties last. The removal of that crucial concept and removing the actual foundations of the Nation state system from educational institutions, from grade school to university level, has made getting the basics of the Nation state system across nearly impossible.

Treaties are NOT set in stone for all time. Good ones last, poor ones fail and most fail due to changing circumstances of culture and society.

Treaties serve as a foundation for international law only to those Nations that actually SIGN such treaties.

These are VOLUNTARY acts of Nations and can be dissolved by each Nation involved without having ANY input from other Nations nor ANY veto power by other Nations. As Geoff Hill (h/t: Steven den Beste)looked at, International Law is not a 'top-down' authority structure, and I will take the liberty of putting most of his post here, since it is pertinent with some of my typical re-formatting:

Law, at least as it is defined in Merriam Webster, does not exist in the international community. MW defines the term as follows:
1 a (1) : a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority
(2) : the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules. It also goes on to state the following: "LAW implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority .
By this definition, true "international law" can not exist. Let me explain.

I quote the following from Malcolm N. Shaw in his 'International Law, Fourth Edition' book:

Having come to the conclusion that states do observe international law and will usually only violate it on an issue regarded as vital to their interests, the question arises as to the basis of this sense of obligation...In a broad sense, states accept or consent to the general system of international law, for in reality without that no such system could possibly operate.
As Mr. Shaw writes quite clearly, no international law has anything to do with the imposition of authority or practice upon a body. All international laws are complied with by the signatories -as they see fit-, and can/have been broken if said signatories view the following of the laws as contrary to their vital interests.

Since there is no overriding sovereign authority who can impose any international laws on any signatories, since any signatories can [and have in cases] flouted certain international laws for their own reasons, and since the laws -only- apply to the signatories and not the world in general, they can't very well be considered laws. They should be more properly designated as non-binding contracts upon the parties involved.
The creation of Transnational structures, then, is wholly dependant upon Nation states. Any creation of a structure that could actually *enforce* any of its rulings would not only break the sovereignty of the Nations, but is wholly pre-supposing that there is some form of investment in that body by the People of Rock 3 from the Star Sol. And even if one were created, it would pander to the largest populations for support... that being China, India and then the mass of third world peoples many of them under dictatorships, failed state democracies, kleptocracies, authoritarian systems, despots, or just plain thugs. The 'advanced' Western societies, of which I count India amongst them, is outweighed by the mass of authoritarian and totalitarian Nations and the people under them and it is THEY who would guide what was and was not acceptable in the way of rights and liberties, not the West. Whenver you hear a Leftist asking 'why do we have to be different?' or 'why can't we be more like other Nations?' the answer is abundantly clear: we like our liberty as a people and these other peoples don't think overmuch of them nor of the freedoms and rights that go with them.

This first and most major division in American political life is becoming clear:

1) Transnationalists and Nationalists. Open borders, free trade, international institutions, and putting forward that businesses and foreign nationals have the right to set Nation based foreign policy and immigration policy is the overall credo of Transnationalists. Further, Transnationalists seek to divide on basis of ethnicity, religion, 'victimhood', and any other thing that can be given a bland over-arching schema and refuse to want to deal with the main divisions amongst mankind being Nation states. Transnationalists don't think much of Nations nor that Nations are accountable to the people inside them and would prefer that people be held accountable to government and large institutions.

As this unites the Transnationalist Left and Right there is also some common accord between the Nationalist extremists on Left and Right. The anti-WTO activists and anti-G8 activists on the Left are joined by isolationists on the Right in America in forming the extremist in the Nationalist camp. They are both representative of the same thing, the main difference being the bomb throwers are real on the Left and linguistic on the Right. That said there are, within both those camps, individuals who see that Transnationalist institutions are the way to go in eliminating the problems of other Transnationalist institutions, and they are mainly on the Left in the current political schema. The main portion of the Nationalist camp adheres to those things that are self-evident in individuals: our responsiblities and rights in forming just societies. Government, to Nationalists, is held accountable to those inside the Nation and must be used to support the beliefs of it but not become the source of them.

Like the current political set-up, this is an inexact shakeout, but helps to understand the broad landscape coming into view. It should be noted that there are no political parties of note that fall into the Nationalist camp that could willingly embrace the extremes seen against Transnationalists. A party that adheres to the Westphalian treaty concept of religious freedom is necessary both to support Nationalism and stop attempts to remove religion from the public square and recognize that it is there and gives a majority, if not overwhelming majority, of the population guidance on their ethics and morality. On the Left those that adhere to Nationalist concepts would need to recognize this and cease efforts to remove religious speech from the public discourse, and those on the Right would need to understand that the Nation as a whole respects religious freedom and not pushing it on one's fellow neighbors via politics.

Those on the Transnationalist side actually have less to broker as both see the utility of intra-divisions within populations as a means to remove sovereignty and the major disagreement is over economic capability in this new global regime: socialist or capitalist? The Transnational Left, for all of their socialist and communist beginnings, are thawing on that issue and have been talking about the need for global trade regulation and against the anti-WTO bomb throwers. That is still a nascent concept, but if that is given accord within Transnationalist circles, it will deeply solidify them into a coherent anti-Nationalist block that plays group politics over individual freedoms and supports government handing out rights (and not many of them) over this messy idea of individual freedom.

As this splits within the current two parties it is hard to give exacting definition to the actual demographic sizes of these groups. Within the Democratic Party, the push towards the Transnational Left has been hard for the last four decades and a quick look at the Presidential candidates gives that break-out (using the RCP National Poll averages):

Transnationalist (Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Richardson) - 15.9%

Nationalist (Biden, Obama) - 27.9%

Transnational Organized Crime group (Clinton) - which is asymmetrical to this concept and splits pretty evenly into Transnational and National camps - 43.1%.

Overall, splitting the Hillary amount: Transnationalist - 37 %/ Nationalist - 49% with 14% off in the hinterland someplace.

On the Republican side things are a bit harder as one needs to look at free trade, immigration and military involvement, the first two of which has been shifted to try and include Nationalism while supporting Transnational goals, but also have the Big Government Conservative problem which also shifts towards Transnationalist goals. Thus the breakout is not clearcut, as it is with the Democrats and watch words for creating a Big Government that adheres to Free Trade along with utilizing some 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigration become a two out of three or three out of five sort of Chinese menu on good and bad. One thing can be said about overall support for the Republican party - the sudden 40% drop in contributions during the illegal immigration amnesty talk this year puts that 40% generally on the Nationalist side of things.

Those not registered to political parties, and who are less than enamored with them and show that by not voting, are becoming a solid plurality in America and, during Congressional elections, a majority. Given the Republican 60% T and 40% N (very roughly as donations is an imperfect measurement of viewpoint) and the Democratic ~40-45%T and ~50-55% N, we can say that this breakout of political views is not enthusing to that plurality that will not come out and vote. As the two parties, roughly, have a 60% enrollment this puts the overall Transnational segment (Left and Right) at 25-30% of the overall population and the Nationalist (Left and Right) at 25-30%.

When 40% of the population refuses to find good and solid support in that sort of break-out in a two party system, something is decidedly wrong with the system itself. In a democracy NO political party or set of same can afford to so turn off voters that they will not vote as that begins to invalidate the very concept of representative democracy.

This dichotomy will see some bedfellows that are strange *now* but become a bit more apparent due to underlying views of government's role in the lives of citizens. Currently the religious right, or conservative, area has two parts to it: the Westphalians and the 'Compassionate Conservatives'. Note that this does not break along a line of religion, but of the role of government in sustaining religion. The Westphalians stick to that and letting each individual choose their own means and method of worship and of having no government sanction or support wanted or needed. 'Compassionate Conservatives' see a positive role for government in sustaining religious groups and have few qualms about government programs and funds in support of such work. Westphalians, by and large, tend to be Nationalists, while those in the 'Compassionate Conservative' mode tend to endorse more role and scope for government in tune with Transnationalist means and ends.

On the religious left, this split is not apparent, as there are few divisions between wanting more government support for social programs and more scope for government in peoples lives, and the idea that this can be extended towards religion as well. That is not to say that there has been pushback, however, with a scattering of urban churches realizing that government handouts have eroded self-sufficiency and the ability of individuals to actually succeed on their own. Those institutions stood up for the welfare reform of the 1990's and were able to give just enough cover for that to be pushed through on a National level. It is because of those viewpoints that such churches, while still preaching to the universal salvation, may also find themselves more in agreement with Nationalists and individualism than with Transnationalism and Statist views.

The second breakdown has a high degree of dependance on the first:

2) International Exceptionalism and International Acceptionalism

Nationalism and a free play between Nations and their peoples is a risky business, and there are some World Wars to demonstrate that to the tune of millions dead due to them. That era of International Exceptionalism, of letting capability and ability rise with Nationalist support has been replaced with International Acceptionalism and the blandifying of cultures and achievements, as well as dangers. Anyone listening to a litany of ills of America or the West from a Leftist will hear about: Nationalism, Imperialism and cultural chauvanism. A lovely 'one world' doctrine will remove all of those and offer... well, that is where things get murky as it is usually an end to 'wars' and 'strife' and 'raising up the poor'. These are messianic messages at their base and this is the New Religion that goes with Economics Religion of the Transnationalist Left and Right. Just remove all these Nationalist 'things' and things will be peachy!

Unfortunately, between point A and point Z there are a number of intermediary points that are left out, the first of which is the loss of individual and cultural identity to this new, global entity. And as rights and freedoms become a 'lowest common denominator' so as to NOT put anyone at peril of having been discriminated upon by someone else who has a better idea of what they are doing, that means not only a blandifying of culture but a removal of key aspects of competition that allow better worlds to be built. Indeed it would be wonderful if everyone 'just got along' and 'worked together' and the Lord was sitting in Jerusalem and all cultures were 'equal' and any sort of 'discrimination' was absent and the Holy Gospel of Mao/Lenin/Trotsky/Stalin/Khomeini were the source of all that was good.

To which the Nationalist traditionally supplies: 'Yeah, you and *what* army?'

Idealism is a wonderful thing, but the nasty world of dirt and detritus and fallible humans obviates every utopian vision from the moment it is stated: you need something absolutely perfect without any question by every single individual on the planet to work together on. Excepting an alien invasion of some sort, that is not going to be happening any time soon and the lack of Halos around the Annointed points out tha these utopian visions are just as relevant to us as those of the Shakers. We got some nice furniture from that, but they aren't a real going concern and nirvana has not descended upon us. The problem with all this 'getting along together in perfect harmony' is that unless a few Coke manufacturing plants are spiked with some real nice drug, it is not going to happen. We are human and we each have differences of experience, outlook and opinion even *within* the same organization. Just look at all the problems one man caused by his very realistic questions to an organization that was considered to be perfect and a monobloc: Martin Luther not only gave birth to the idea of individual religious interpretation but also ushered in some of the most deadly wars this planet has ever seen.

Imagine *that* on a global scale.

International Exceptionalists accommodate for differences and appreciate them, while in no way making an excuse for their abilities as individuals and Nations.

International Acceptionalists want to have excuses and caveats on everything so that some cave dwelling mud spattering is *exactly* equal to the Mona Lisa as they both represent 'equal effort' and we should not judge 'outcome' because of 'cultural biases'.

Consider this to be like a local ethnic deli, of which we have a few around here. A wonderful one featuring Peruvian food also does Greek, Italian, and some of the American basics. Quality varies and there is a bias in what they create, but the food is hearty and they give homage to the cultures that created such good ideas for food when they do their version of it. That is International Exceptionalism.

Go to McDonalds. Take something original, squeeze the taste from it, try to get to its 'essential essence', duplicate that, mix that up, deep-fry it and there you have it just like the original, but homogenized so as to be multi-culti acceptable. That is PC-talk, homogenized culture so that no roughness exists, that everything is just 'equal' no matter how bad it is, and that nothing is anything better than anything else and it is all 'relative' culturally. When one bar-b-que afficianado was interviewed about the McRib he said that when he was handed it he would shake his head and say: 'Faux 'que'.

That is International Acceptionalism.

Nationalism is to Transnationalism as the ethnic deli is to McDonalds, the multi-cultis say they prefer the deli, but end up serving you with a 'faux 'que'.

Yes, a very flip comparison, but this does point out that Americans, unlike portrayed by the Left, are open to people from different cultures that come here to be Americans. We do not, particularly, want to be like 'everyone else' nor do we want to be unbiased. That has been the American viewpoint since the founding when America was the newest weakest of all powers all the way to today as the sole Superpower.

The move to multi-culti, know no borders work is not just a Leftist phenomena, and there is a hard move by the Transnationalist Right to create a borderless 'open market' for skills and services that will discriminate not by Nationality but by living standard, so that those with a lower standard of living will guide the market for labor. That is a great help to business as it can then lower labor cost by bringing in foreign labor that has no Nationality invested in working for them and can be sent back to such conditions once they become more expensive than entry level personnel. While the Left works hard to discriminate culturally and blandify it through multicultural equivalence, the Right works hard to remove the basis for exceptionalism by making skills a commodity and at the lowest marginal cost, and thus the lowest overhead, as the only concern so that if your cultural actually tries to enforce a view that working conditions should be 'good' or 'reasonable' or 'safe' for that cultural ethos and there is a cost to that, you are priced out of that market by holding to higher standards.

Transnationalism, then, is not only a move towards cultural equivalence, so that the worse treatment of individuals is accepted as the norm, but also one of economic minimilization, so that the lowest cost overhead per skill then drives the 'labor market' which is homogenized across borders. By removing Nationalist differences Transnationalism also seeks to remove societal support within Nations so that all Nations are equally obedient and impoverished to Transnational institutions.

Much of Transnationalism sounds like early Internationalist Socialism idealism for the fact that it *is* Internationalist Socialism of the First and Second International varieties. The very idealistic idea that capitalism was just about to give up the ghost and that the proletariat was going to arise into a new International Order all on its lonesome. Transnationalism lifts many of those ideals of that International and 'fair' order of the working class directly from International Socialism, but has slowly mutated its basis from replacing capitalism to replacing Nations only. The Transnational Right brings in economic ideals of absolute free trade being a boon to mankind if only mankind lived in perfect economic order and perfect economic markets. The free trade would boost mankind into an economic nirvana where all needs would be met at the best cost to individuals at all times and everyone would have spare time to be be free.

These two utopian idealistic system views both fail when applied to humanity as a whole as humans are neither 'workers' nor 'economic animals' alone: humans are much more complex than that as our societies point out. PC multiculturalism tries to deal with that by leveling all playing fields to moral and ethical equivalence, so that the worst mass murderer is exactly equal to the greatest philanthropist. Build or destroy those are both 'cultural' values and both are absolutely equal.

Nationalism, instead of doling out your rights and cash, instead, puts forth that Nations serves as a representative for the people of a Nation and have the greatest possible leeway inside a Nation, and are held accountable by other Nations for agreements. That is sparse fare, compared to the 'feel good' pap of Transnationalism, and tough stuff to chew on, and requires actual commitment and hard work for personal achievement instead of personal indolence and praise for same that becomes the heart of Transnationalism. Instead of a reward of infinite impoverished leisure, with guaranteed health care so long as everyone doesn't take the month off for vacation, Nationalists put forward that individuals are more suited to guiding themselves and their Nation and if they want to be poor and sick they can choose that, just don't try to make it out as a better choice than what other citizens choose to have inside a different Nation.

That basis for sovereignty, of Nations being accountable to each other and having such internal differences, is a recognition of the diversity of mankind, not a suppression of it. Of all the misrepresentations of Nationalism, that is by far the worse: that Nationalism is a form of suppression of cultural expression. That gets 'cultural imperialism' tacked on to it in various ways, but those expressing that have a difficulty in explaining 'cultural imperialism' without real Imperialism. Instead we get demonstrations about 'diverse' languages and cultures that 'die out' because those utilizing those differences are either assimilated into larger cultures, or they give up their cultural practices in preference to newer ones that better suit their lives. The first is a measure of cultural vitality or lack or same, and the second, oddly enough, is people just trying to do well within their means.

Keeping a culture that is dying out due to lack of those adhering to it is a problem, and there is a richness and depth in cultures that disappears when they are no longer living cultures. Examples include some of the last purely oral cultures that have no written traditions and that still exist on stories and the songs of bards. Those that volunteer to keep such traditions going and absorb that work are highly laudible, as are incentives by larger cultures to keep such traditions living. That is a part of humanity's heritage and the world loses some brightness when such dies out as a living set of ethics and morality. When one gives up ancient practices, there is also a loss, but if modern means, say woven clothing, replaces older means of skin or crude plant based clothing due to a lower cost basis, then the only way to maintain the ancient way is to also incentivize it so as to keep it a living tradition of the manual arts. That is a much harder thing to do as the shift over to mass manufactured goods is cheap and simple as those are the exact needs that mass production was set up to meet: cheap and simple.

Part of the reason for keeping cultures as a living venue, is that different viewpoints on how to live life often yield unique formulations on what problems are and what sort of solutions can be applied to them. The Navajo 'Code Talkers' of WWII derived, as they were, from an ethnic background of an entirely oral cultural that was not associated with Indo-European language roots became a valuable resource to the US military enterprises in the Pacific Theater. Without that different formulation of language and cultural outlook many messages that would need to be secured would have to go through a cumbersome coding and de-coding process, while the 'Code Talkers' could quickly and easily transmit messages 'in the clear' that were meaningless to non-cultural listeners. Similarly scholars trying to decypher the Linear B language recorded around the Aegean had been stuck for years on doing so before a cryptologist addressed himself to it and finally decyphered the syllable based language as an ancient form of Greek. No one could have predicted the utility of two sub-groups of culture, the Navajo and cryptographers, playing a large part in other cultural endeavors, passing messages and decyphering 'dead' scripts. Similarly the concept of using cryptography to enhance archaeology was not seen as a possibility before WWII, but became a high art during the war and those artisans applied themselves to several 'lost languages' with the result being the decyphering of Linear B and an infusion of logic and math into a regime of study that had not had that beyond engineering. Applying math to dead cultures and languages suddenly gave those fields new life and increased our understanding of how languages work they way they do.

While many tout the impact of science and technology on culture it has generally been in the diffractive and negative mode: creating a 'sound bite' world and the troubling aspect of technology closing distances even as it opened cultural gulfs. Each wave of technology and media has changed the world and decreased the time between event and distribution of it from mere hours at the beginning of the 20th century to 0.5 seconds by the end of it with that last being the time it takes light to cross the diameter of the planet via sattelites or via fiber optic cable. This last has been touted as the new 'divide' amongst peoples, but the actual engineering and price points guiding this 'divide' are unlike any other in the history of mankind. This effect is best described by Ray Kurzweil and will have an impact across standard political boundaries and even across the Nationalist and Transnationalist groups as it is asymmetrical to both and oblique in its approach. The underpinnings of it, however, are described by Gordon E. Moore in Moore's Law, and by Robert Metcalfe in Metcalfe's Law.

Moore's Law is as follows from the 1965 Electronics Age magazine:

The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year ... Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer.
This concept has been one that was knocked around for awhile and used as a sort of quote that would allow one to smile afterwards as if to say 'this is a wonderful conjecture but no one really expects things to work out like that...' That smile began to disappear in the 1980's as Moore's Law continued onwards and would be adjusted to a fixed price point per given wafer size and would become an industry driving concept for personal computers that continues to this day. The hard limits of working with atoms gives Moore's Law an end point as the atom is not subdivisable for information processing... well... a bit on that in a moment.

The next part is more complex and involved and is an important statement on human interactivity and value added to society and that is in the realm of telecommunications networking which would open that entire conceptual field up for analysis. I will paraphrase Metcalfe's Law a bit as follows: The value of communication in a network goes up to the square of those nodes that have the potential to interact expressed as - n * (n-1)/2 where (n) is the number of nodes.

Each node must have some value and capability to interact and interconnect and the internet brought that about in spades. There has been criticism of this in many realms, but those have been on theoretical basis of 'pure actors', while the internetwork concept bridges between disparate networks with translation nodes which would be multilingual individuals on the internet. So while there is talk of the Anglosphere internet, Francophone internet and Arabic net, they all interconnect through multi-language fluent individuals and now automated translation services. The reason that this transformative technology is oblique to Nationalism and Transnationalism is that it does not properly adhere to either, even while the various nodes (being individuals) do so. This is a neutral communicative technology that brings higher information value and things like 'fact checking' with more users coming online that have potential to interact that turns into real-time interaction.

This combines with Moore's Law in increasing the availability of low cost connective devices that are easy to make with high amounts of capability. As that increases over time, so that next year's model has significant increases in capabilities over this year's, the greater extent to which more of humanity can share information with each other. Combined as power laws, or laws that have functions which increase with the square of a given variable, they have a synergistic effect in closing distance, time and, paradoxically, demonstrating cultural gulfs between Nations and even within Nations.

Saudi Arabia was very happy to utilize cell phone technology and smuggle such into other Nations that restricted them. The Nation was less happy when low cost camera integrated picture phones became cheap and high resolution the government quickly and attempted to ban them as they increased the number of dirty pictures being exchanged amongst young people. No matter what technical fix was put in place, the younger folks having more time on their hands and skill with technology, circumvented those. Banning the phones just caused them to be smuggled INTO Saudi Arabia and widely distributed through the already known smuggling channels that normally head outwards. Together Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law are attacking Wahhabism obliquely and asymmetrically in ways that it cannot easily adapt to or counter because such picture phones, and now video phones, become cheaper and more widely available over time.

Iraq, contrarily, having no puritanical religious streak and having had secular rulers (although horrifically brutal) quickly adapted to and adopted this technology to the point where cell phones outnumbered land-line phones and terrorists had to stop blowing up cell phone towers as they needed that communications channel to run their operations. Of course that played to the technical strengths of the US Armed Forces and SIGINT groups, and started a longer term mapping out of both terrorist and organized crime structures inside Iraq. And since there is no prohibition on such devices, and the capability of each Iraqi to store dirty stories, jokes, pictures, web sites, etc. on their cell phones and multiple SIM cards is becoming near legendary, Saudi Arabia would face the fact that one of the main supply areas for their problem with same was their neighbor recovering from warfare and decades of tyrannical rule.

[This next section is highly speculative, but not unwarranted nor baseless due to the technologies involved]

Due to National cultures which are highly different for all the fact these two Nations are geographic neighbors, their cultures and religion are either deeply affected or not affected at all by such technology. National cultures, then, being the relative norm on a global scale are a guiding influence as to how these means of communication will be used. One of the uses, however, is the formation of virtual communities that are international in scope and Transnational in flavor. Digital worlds actually allow for utopian societies to gather which has been the case of both game oriented communities ( ex. Everquest, Ultima Online, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft) and virtual worlds (ex. The Sims Online, Second Life).

These worlds, while virtual, have trade goods in them, be it 'discovered' treasure from the game oriented worlds to the created materials by the residents of Second Life. This was first described by Edward Castronova for Everquest and allowed for a valuation of objects in-world to gain real world valuation. With the first virtual economy would come the concept that the standard tools of measuring economies could be brought to bear on this virtual world set of systems. While hackers would attempt to undermine or inflate the economies of various virtual worlds, this would also put tools to use that would serve for economic analysis of similar crime types in the real world. Within a few years the first virtual world economic exchange systems would be created that would allow market valuation to set the exchange of currencies between worlds and for real world valuation.

As penetration of these worlds became global, the concept of a global Transnational voluntary community has been developed and is a work in progress in many worlds. Because these are voluntary associations, there is no real ability to create enforcement mechanisms for PC speech beyond that of disassociating with individuals. Those who harass others, however, can be banned by the virtual world maintainers. The status of intellectual property law in such Transnational virtual worlds is also an ongoing area, as well as ensuring the security of monetary transactions.

By combining two power laws the ability to create such worlds has developed and continues onwards with better simulation capabilities, newer ways to address in-world physics and increasing complexity for replicating real world developments in virtual worlds. The impact of these places, however, will remain strictly limited to those that seek them out but their internal internetworking ability gains external contacts with those individuals that are both in VWs and net surfers: a form of multiculturalism that is not one that levels cultures, but valuates the contribution of individuals to each culture. While VWs, such as Second Life, has seen real world politics enter into them via campaigns setting up outreach centers in them, that is only one aspect of real world politics that does so.

Out of all the transformative technologies that can be shuffled out of the deck, from nanotechnology to carbon nanotubes to robotics to self-replicating machines, the one that poses the greatest possibilities as the exact way to use it has not been fully explored is that of quantum computing. By basing computing on a non-linear system the paradigm of creating programs moves from the step-wise type of modern computers to that of quantum states being utilized to reveal answers that have a high mathematical slope to them for linear computing. Any problem that increases as a factorial of a number or via higher power states where the number of possibilies increases logarithmically to the increase in a number, the more time it takes a linear computer to solve such a problem.

Quantum computers offer, in theory, a method to bypass the linear, step-wise analysis and do decomposition of a problem based on its quantum states and possibilities. In cryptology this offers the ability to crack any linear cryptography system that uses large prime numbers in a fraction of the time it would take a linear system to do so. Such things as the 'traveling salesman problem' of figuring out the shortest, no crossing, non-repeat route between a series of destinations, become typical of the type of problems that are not amenable to linear analysis, but highly amenable to non-linear analysis. Further, such systems offer possibilities of remotely interacting system to do analysis due to such things as quantum entanglement, characterized by Einstein as 'spooky action at a distance'. Currently there are multiple companies and government agencies working hard to get QC technology for its obvious benefits, and when that is done the circuitry in them (unless started at the absolute limit of what the technology is able to do in the realm of physics and engineering) will become captive of Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law.

The ubiquity of computing that is expected by Kurzweil and others will act as a global system of pressure having a transformative change on how we view ourselves and the world around us. That is not one that naturally pressures for or against Nationalist or Transnationalist views, politically, and will offer advances in medicine and home based devices for creating things that is more like the home crafting of the early mercantalist systems than of advanced post-industrial manufacturing. What happens to drug laws and organized crime, say, if a sub-$1000 device allows crafting of the molecules necessary at home for such things? That becomes a very different world, and quickly, than is either expected by the Nationalist conception or the Transnationalist conceptions of society, although the Nationalist concept of citizenship as duty and obligation becomes one that will keep those societies that adhere to that together as coherent entities longer than those without it.

Just as the printing press would forever change religion, societies and Nations, so, too, will this new suite of technologies do that to Nations, societies and the concept of the rights and responsiblities of individuals. For the next decade or so, the end result of the progressive era of the early 20th century will play out, but that will be overshadowed by the oblique technology that will wrench that world away from the real world as the real world changes in ways that neither socialism nor capitalism have properly addressed. Where the US and other Nations fall in the final ending of the old paradigm of industrial age society may very well determine the future course of liberty and freedom for generations onwards as the digital equivalent of the 95 Theses gets nailed up to every door of every Nation, Statehouse and Transnational institution's door globally and near simultaneously.

No matter what happens, our rights and responsibilities are and always will be, self-evident. Meaning that how we cope and change with this may very well determine not only our survival as individuals, but as an ongoing concern as a species.


Harrison said...

Another solid piece, kurt. The scourge that is Transnational Progressivism has been as evident and clear to me as ever, and your post simply elucidates it even clearer. Intellectuals such as Andrew Linklater have questioned why particularistic associations such as nation-states must exist in the international system when the ties that bind each individual to another are fraternalistic. Thomas Aquinas noted that we were, as humans, all governed under one natural law as dictated by God, and so we should embrace each other. Such optimism ingrained in the benign view of human nature is much desired for in this current apocalyptic age of multitudinous dangers that we live in in trepidation and perpetual fear, yet is unhelpful, even hampering our conceptualisation of the realities at hand.

The only problem with the utopian view that progress of humanity can only be measured when the obligation felt by the individual - as a result of pulls of loyalties stirred by particularistic associative elements such as race, ethnicity, ideology and nationalism - gives way to the obligation felt towards mankind is that it should be done as quickly as possible, with almost complete disregard for the intricacies of disparate cultures and identities. Too often does the mantra 'for the greater good' involve overgeneralisation and brutal homogenisation of identities such that the individual is quickly forgotten. Diversity falls prey to the 'race to the bottom' as the lowest common deoniminator is sought after as if it were an end in itself.

The lowest common denominator manifests itself in the worst excesses of 'free trade' capitalism as espoused by the neoliberal ideologues: where low costs are supposed to attract investment, protectionist measures coupled hypocritically with exposing domestic producers to ruthless competition from abroad have allowed for the exploitation of low-cost labour. Other countries see this and start a race to the bottom by squeezing their workers even more.

Too benign a view of human nature, too distrustful a view of government.

Your speculative analysis of techonology is fascinating, except that you kind of lost me at 'quantum computing'. Still, a good read.

A Jacksonian said...

Harrison - My thanks!

The QC problem is one that makes current cyptography obsolete... the CIA had to give an assessment to Congress on if current encryption capabilities can hold data safe for 15 years. By 2000, Congress was informed that was no longer the case due to QC. In theory, and that is where it still is after a few years, QC offers to utilize the quantum positioning of particles to allow one to ask 'fuzzy questions' that are indeterminate. A QC polls the possible states of its internally positioned particles and comes up with an answer. As an example, getting a 256-bit key base for a linear system to decypher something, takes hours or days (or longer) with the fastest linear machines. A QC will yield it in four steps, given the minimum necessary number of particles to poll (I believe that is 8 in this case). So the impossible to do by regular computer problem of the traveling salesman (at 12 destinations you start running into some very long linear times) is something like a 6 step process for a QC. In theory this offers all sorts of capabilities for testing molecule types that fit to certain diseases by just polling the possible fit of all known molecules that can be synthesized and yielding an answer, and then asking which of those are not harmful to normal human biota processes. That is still a rather lengthy process for a QC, but at 25 qbits it ends up being under a day... possibly faster at larger numbers of particles.

The trapped particles can be done on current silicon dioxide based substrates, so, in theory, the actual number of qbit analysis particles is only limited by the amount of die space they take up plus cooling. Say a few thousand on something the size of our current class of processor...

As of yet no one has developed an operating system schema for an indeterminate system computer. The NSA has had that as a project going on 10 years if not longer. Last I read in 2004, it was still 'no-dice'.

I wrote a piece on The Ties That Bind a bit ago, doing a bit of history which dovetails a bit on this piece getting into the 'virtual community' concept and then shifting back out to the more general overview.

I think that one of the few things that we have seen over history is that when a society feels comfortable, it feels that strong draw of the individual to self-satisfaction. That is 'decadence' as describing the end of the Roman Empire, and fits pretty well with the general idea of individualism when it loosens its ties to society as a whole. When under direct attack or when desperate need for survival, society flourishes... when that eases off society expands, grows and then reaches some internal limits as individualism comes forward. That atomization either causes decay or stagnation (as witness multile ruling Elites in China throughout history). America without a frontier is heading down that path: without a real and visceral challenge to who we are, we become atomized as a culture and the society slowly withers. That is becoming a major concern to me... winners rarely prosper forever onwards: they stop short, and begin to crumble. We 'won' the Cold War and look set to lose our culture and the peace because we don't feel compelled to pay attention to basics because we are too civilized... too decadent.

Harrison said...

With my limited knowledge on the particular subject of quantum cryptography, I recall that it has something to do with measuring a particular spin and thus its quantum state, and following a certain Pauli's Exclusion Principle, be able to deduce the possibilities of quantum states of particles that cannot be observed for fear of disrupting the process. It saves the hassle of examining all possible outcomes, and prevents experimental errors arrived from the consequent observation of the process, which might possibly obey the so-called non-commuting variable law.

Still, as you mentioned, your observation of it being 'no-dice' so far implies that the time when individuals would be empowered by the accessibility of quantum technology in terms of cost and efficiency is far away. Nobody can predict whether the rate of innovation on quantum computing will increase exponentially after someone finally succeeds in creating one, though you can bank on the possibility that those who are acquainted with its potential will attempt to hoard it for themselves. Hence, expect requests for lengthening patent periods, erection and renewal of intellectual property laws. With Moore's Law seemingly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, industries are finding it harder to catch up with that rate of two per year. If R&D associated with quantum computing has been as extravagant as implied, it seems apparent that Moore's Law will have to be revised.

Which has direct implications on the much-trumpeted 'trickle-down' effect of technology, another popular meme circulating in several circles of discussion. Technology becomes the decisive factor in widening the gap between those who can afford it and those who cannot. Even the virtual communities aforementioned in your post are luxuries of individuals who are better off in countries.

Most of the game-oriented virtual communities require monthly fees as upkeep costs for participation, though smaller competitors have populated the market with free access to their online communities - a trend that is bound to intensify as technological ideas proliferate with increasing ease across borders. Having experimented with a particular game a few years back, I was taken aback with how much time I was spending trading, negotiating and earning profits from buying commodities and selling them at a more opportune time. And I could easily sense the presence of cartels that had already begun to take root and get more and more comfortable - with no form of enforcement possible.

Individuals who are well-accustomed with the workings of capitalist economies inside out definitely fare better in accumulating wealth within virtual worlds (not referring to myself), and these virtual communities serve as microcosmic playgrounds from which some ideas of enforcement of norms and principles as agreed between willing participants may be discussed, experimented at little real cost and perhaps rendered workable. Perhaps the socialisation that comes with being part of such virtual communities will allow individuals to be more sensitive to real-world problems of chronic underdevelopment, poverty and crime.

Of course, this would set as a precondition that individuals take such virtual socialisation experiences seriously, even though the initial intention on their part was to escape the seriousness of reality. Also, transnational communities such as these run the risk of being 'monopolised' by only those who can afford it, such that only special interests are served. This is exactly the ideal which the Transnational Left is striving to duplicate on the global scale; this is why I emphasise on focusing on rendering accessibility to such transnational communities easier for everyone - to ensure that counter-hegemonic blocs will prevent special interest lobbies from dominating the agenda and exploiting transnationalism, hijacking the movement and using it for its destructive, utopian ends.

One of the successes of the Transnational Left is convincing that the communities which it has inspired and spawned are 'global' in scope, when in fact they serve the vested interests of a particular few in each country. An exclusive club with exclusive objectives.

This is all extrapolation, though I believe there's something within that can be workable in reality.

I'm in the midst of Huxley's Brave New World, and I believe 'decadence' is the word to describe how the totalitarian regime in Huxley's world manages its citizenry. The government provides the individual with a multitude of distractions and sinful indulgences such that he or she does not bother with any other problems. I recall a line in Lions for Lambs whereby Robert Redford tells his student: "Open your eyes. Rome is burning." Instead of circling the flames, one should attempt to fight them. Otherwise, whatever we live for will perish along with us.

Atomisation of the individual - is this the legacy of Communism that haunts the present and refuses to relax its grotesquely asphyxiating chokehold on the future?

Pardon the rather disorganised train of thoughts here - I was attempting to address the points you had raised and ideas just popped out here and there.

A Jacksonian said...

Harrison - You are replicating my way of posting :D

About the only major thing on QC is the look by SciAm a few years back on the capability of using current silicon based capability to create q-bit based systems. One of the major problems is we still have too many quantum physicists and not enough quantum engineers: that is changing with nanotechnology, however. The ability of a 'Buckyball' or Bukminsterfullerene to capture a single atom in a carbon atom matrix or the use of silicon dioxide to isolate a single atom in a pre-formed etched wafer are both pointing the way forward on the technical side. Undertanding what we are *making* is the hard part of this, and understanding the observed decomposition state effects is still something that is the major hurdle in QC. Because it offers non-linear scale of computing and, BTW quantum networks via entanglement, the ability to leverage computing resources would no longer be hampered, in the main, by relativity, although that still plays a part and that recent 'theory of everything' via matrix work needs to be flexed a bit to see if it can yield an answer here. That would be a hard and fast test of that theory, and if it yields a 'yes' answer, then it really is just engineering and figuring out what *that* takes. So far we have been hampered by the lack of skilled individuals who would not see the change from 'scientist' to 'engineer' as a come-down.

Current market systems are based on a number of interactions between large scale institutions (cartels, trading blocks, and consortiums) that have a limited proactive outlook (they wish to make a profit) and a highly backwards looking one (keep things stable to ensure that profit). Individual investors are left without the knowledge of those trading blocks, by and large, but it is interesting that they do follow an inherent rule-system that is 'non-obvious'. One of the first interesting experiments in adaptive computing through genetic algorithms was a stock price analysis system in which the system was given historical data and then allowed to create variants of itself to try and tackle different internal variations in their systems. Those that succeeded, by and large, were kept, the losers removed and then those winners multiplied and then allowed to exchange internal code variants. The system is ingenious as it removes human based bias from the analysis and, instead, moves it to the data input realm and then measures how the systems adapt and evolve towards more correct solutions. The internal 'code' of these systems is unintelligible to the normal programmer and many have artifacts that are, apparently, contradictory, internally, to getting a desired outcome. Yet, remove those 'superfluous' internal components and the resulting code does not track as well as the parent! There are now some investor funds that have *zero* human analysis input and the only changes are in giving adaptive code a chance to play without money in sandboxes to generate up new variants that track things better. It speaks well of human ingenuity to create things that we do not understand but still work, and it also speaks very poorly of our current understanding of human based interactions that we do so poorly at something like market prediction.

This is an area of computing that has a part to play in the micromachine/nanotech world as the first FPGA (Field Programmable Grid Array) systems involve the use of adaptive code. An array of gates on a chip can be adjusted by other code to create gates or spaces to make physical and other measurements, and FPGAs are now a feature of many multi-use cell phones that also process pictures, music, and a lot of other things as a single FPGA chip switching between functions every nanosecond allows for human experience of 'continuity' between all of those functions. Beyond that the use of adaptive code was in the experimental area of sensor-based systems to try and create new designs that humans wouldn't come up with but that the FPGA's adaptable code base would generate. A very simple first system was done to measure temperature and utilized a 'knowledge base' of simple gate types to do certain functions. They stared out with the 'human based' knowledge base and soon, of course, had good temperature measurement systems. But then a researcher restarted things without building blocks or simple gate arrays and would allow the system to try and figure out a way to still achieve its goal. There was one device that was considered, by all human knowledge, to be absolutely essential in this: an internal clock. He removed that. A hundred or so generations later he had temperature measuring systems that did *not* use a clock. The system, contrary to all human known engineering and mechanics, had created something *new* based on evolutionary algorithms. And taking apart the code that did this did *not* yield a clock or any equivalent of it: this was a wholly new way of measuring temperature. Actually, and this was 7 or so years ago now, the researcher couldn't figure out how it *did* work.

When applied to a market place and given all the expected known input, plus some that may be extraneous, an adaptive algorithm that tracks markets can be created... it is obviously finding underlying patterns and rules that can be modeled and yet how and why that happens is non-obvious. A lot of the block trading is, of course, done by rule-based computing, and they all have similar views although strong variations within those views. Some of the smaller trading blocks have actually shifted over to this concept, not totally but in smaller scale areas, and we are now seeing a market driven by algorithms trying to figure out each other's way of doing things and adapting to them to gain advantage.... humans do have input to this system: small trading groups changed algorithm behavior when they were added in, although not down to the level of 'investment clubs' - there appears to be a 'noise level' involved also.

This field is highly interesting due to the need for human adaptable input and interface systems that can adjust to singular end users. Although I doubt we will see much more of 'MS Bob' or 'Clippy', humans don't do all that well with computer generated input that has faux personality, there are a number of agent based systems that do this, the worst of which is Amazon's system which is absolutely awful in its suggestion based system... humorous, yes... accurate, no. Still, adaptable and evolutionary systems with human feedback and adjustment will prove an interesting part of all of this.

Now I am highly OT!! Comes with the territory...

I do agree that Communism is a main factor in the atomization of individuals to society: that arises from treatment of individuals as a 'mass' not as individuals. The Prisoner's re-phrase - "I am not a number, I am a free man!" - is a direct attack against the source of this dehumanization that wishes to yield humans down to units of something larger. That is detestable on the Left and the Right, and the dehumanizing factor of treating humans as 'economic beings' only is a bad trait both sides have picked up. I am more than the sum of my income and buying decisions, much, much more... and yet that is what the authoritarian views of Communism and 'free trade' Capitalism would have me be - an economic unit only. That is now a religious dogma instead of being a form of analysis only, and I am sickened by the easy dehumanization of individuals boiled down to 'lowest common denominators'. If we are just that, then we will have some lovely, adaptable systems that will take our place very soon now... luckily we are non-linear systems that not only have adaptability, ingenuity but drive towards certain goals. When those goals over-ride viewing humanity as individuals creating larger things about them known as society... we are on a downward spiral as a species if we attempt to change that into mass calculations *only*, because that is what makes us human.

The asymmetrical effect of technology on this, beyond having things like cheap cell phones in the hands of Kalihari bushmen, is two fold: the cost of individualized manufacturing is now following the Moore's Law cycle, though at about a decade or two behind, and those devices allowing individualized creation break the societal concept of restricting individuals based on their use of materials. The first and second generation of precision, computer driven home lathing systems, along with routers for wood, are the basis for replacing the bits with metal working bits and doing that with metal. Also the microtechnology and the 'lab on a chip' concept, plus precision output devices using commodity parts (like using cells in inkjet devices) will change the way we view the creation and utization of everything from such things as automatic weapons (with a home system and precision lathe and casting you are down to the cost of raw materials, equipment and time) all the way up to custom pharmaceuticals and organic cellular substrates. Our concept of government to 'restrict our vices' to ourselves is coming to an end in a hard and fast way because the original parts manufacturing is cheap. A village that can get a modern, $200 PC with solar cells is set up to now have its own precision forge and drafting system, with lathing, and add on pharmaceutical and organic cell substrate creation. The cost factor is not a 'divide increase' paradigm, but a 'lower the bar to lowest possible income' one. This is also, by the exact same technology, a Von Neumann concept: you now have the parts to create an entire *new* device from scratch. While large scale manufacturing will play its part, stopping that from replicating will be impossible as it is all technology driven via data. The Open Source movement now includes OS Robotics and OS Manufacturing for these new tools and devices. The economic shift of this sort of work in this pre-gen era are already apparent: low cost handheld devices in rural India now allow farmers to trade commodities with each other at global market prices adjusted to transport efficiencies. Yes, trading livestock for wheat is done at Chicago Board of Trade prices... which, prior to the 1990's, was impossible to even think about. Local economic factors now play a part in global decisions, and global result reflect into local economies directly: no intermediaries save those doing the local trading seeking a 'fair price'. Consider the blacksmith in a village during the anti-Soviet Mujahaddin era, in which an AK-47, brand new,made from local parts, was $200-250. Now replace the man, the forge, the hand tools, with a sub-$20,000 device that utilizes free drafting templates, precision cast analysis, precision machining and can clunk out 3-5 of those a day based on raw materials. Yes the one man's job goes away... but the output increases as well as quality.... the skill base disappears. Do that for precision pharma products with known chemical structure and reagents. Currently I am utilizing a medication that is very costly due to abuse of it by the richer portion of the US population, which restricts output and has increased overhead due to 'controls'. The actual cost of materials and compounds for a drug that has been known for over 25 years is miniscule, as is the manufacturing process. The overhead is the driving cost and that is governmental overhead, almost entirely due the restricted drug category it is in. Now, if for a sub-$1000 investment and a few tens of dollars in chemicals and existing compounds I an *make* that for a net cost of pennies per pill.... now imagine that for cocaine, for heroine, for LSD, for any known pharma product that has molecular description. That is not the far future, and devices like that for creating chemical labs on a chip are already in first gen production for sensors. An entire directed chemical lab on a microchip. Add in an FPGA and multiple compound inputs and I now have a fully adaptable, small scale chemical lab for personalized production of pharmaceuticals. Any drug that is 'patented' has a chemical analysis and structure as part of that... intellectual property theft? or utilizing technology to create a new basis for personalized precision drug making?

It is things like this that Thomas Barnett does not address: he looks to the exact, immediate past and misses the underlying future trends. I look at the trends and then see the last five decades of society transformed and then see that curve heading *up*. Farmers with pocket devices in the fields that trade on world market prices *are* part of a transnational community: that of all traders utilizing global prices for making local decisions. The virtual world is the high end of that, but the real impact effects of these communities is starting to show up today... but we have adjusted to them as they are outgrowth of what we know from the last decade. The last decade *only*.

That limitation in time horizon, as James Burke points out, is one that will kill you if you stick to it. I do agree with you that to counter transnational scale governments we must have an understanding of transnational scale systems and how they impact our daily lives... but that is not to enact a transnational scale government system, but to have an adaptable set of societies that utilize this creation (even if we have problems knowing exactly what it is doing) to the benefit of ourselves and our cultures. Those wishing to atomize humanity have stark tools for doing so coming around... but as with every other single set of tools in the past, those can be used to build and sustain new localized communities that hold those tools and actions with them to be accountable to society.

The plough was the greatest war making machine ever invented: it allowed a sustained large population to be built up and a profession of soldier to be created. Larger and worse wars would follow in its path.

The printing press, like modern internetworked electronics, opened a vista of new ideas down to those that could afford the 'penny dreadful' and before that the 'penny broadsheet'. Each of those caused massive upheavals in religion, politics and the idea of just what a *Nation* is. New communities formed around these things and realized that no matter how powerful the tool was, it was not the tool that guided them.

Today the last of the manufacturing era is meeting up with the first of digital space age (and I do see those as connected as every massive change needs to expand outwards so that pioneers can do this thing known as 'pioneering'). What we currently think of as poverty and hunger will be dramatically altered by this... and the tools of greater and worse war handed down the scale as biotoxins and customized viruses and bacteria come with the liberating effects of creating much to live by your own hand and find value in yourself.

I do not worry about that era as either we, as a species, will remember our past and look forward to human liberty... or we will have the tools in the hands of those wishing to implode it be so widely spread so that nothing can be done about it as *no* totalitarian system can stop that power without becoming something far worse. Humanity has found balance and a middle path, but that path is now changing although still aligned with the fixed points in the sky... stepping forward without acknowledging that and adjusting to it is not just folly.

That is fatal.

The era of Private War is returning with avengeance. And that old paradigm of the Spartans of 'with your shield or on it' rings as true in that future as in our present and our past. The Left and Right will not face that... and by doing that we succumb to our own tools used in ill ways. Because we would not fight them to sustain society, or die trying to.

Harrison said...

kurt, I hope you aren't about to sue me for that. ;)

Let me try and get what you were attempting to eludicate about with regards to adaptive code: basically, algorithms programmed to record and identify the implicit norms of behaviour made by individuals in the economy. As Anthony Giddens - a constructivist - had envisioned, agent-structure duality exists and is a continuous dialectic. The algorithm encapsulates the complexities of the dialectic and influences the behaviour of agents working within the system, but as human beings, we employ our own intellect, gut instinct and reasoning that alters the norms of the algorithm. To a great degree, humans are less of empty vessels and abstract units, and more of the elements that render us human: our passions, ambitions and fears.

And still though we may have gotten better at market prediction, we can't figure out the forces behind the dynamics. From a constructivist's point of view, it seems that we have to delve deeper into the intricacies of influences that condition and socialise the individual's psyche, response behaviour and perspective. That sounds more like pyschology than anything else, but elements such as culture and philosophy might be better placed to analyse and understand why algorithms work - the basis being non-obvious factors of which their significance may be greatly underestimated or underrated. Perhaps the orthodox manner of thought with regard to predicting market behaviour serendipitously coincided with economic trends leading up till now?

Furthermore, doesn't the argument that market prediction possesses the risk of self-fulfilling prophesising stand in this case? Human behaviour may be influenced more by what they believe will happen than what they want to happen, especially when they know potential outcomes are being dictated by forces greater than the individual.

I've gotten used to the degree of OT-ness, and I like the territory just fine. So don't worry about me here!

I believe the problem lies not with transnationalism per se but how it is being managed, much like globalisation itself. It is a process, but to deny that transnational forces are wholly beyond the control of governments is a pathetic attempt to absolve oneself of responsibility to their electorates. Even more serious, to deny that transnational forces are being manipulated and exploited by a select few within these communities - special interest groups, corporate lobbies, idealist-socialists, criminal networks, terrorist organisations, drug cartels - is to willingly and consciously surrender sovereignty to these entities, who are only all too eager to gobble up the carrion.

I concur with your point about having to wield transnationalism as a tool, to manage it and strengthen the communities that we already have succeeded in creating and preserving. Never should we let the tool ride roughshod and erode what we have accomplished - when the means become an end in itself, transnationalism has no intrinsic value other than to equalise at the lowest common denominator. Though transnational communities should not be accepted as the basis for a world government, they should be perceived as the budding beginnings of transnational civil society.

These transnational forces could draw resources from disparate areas of expertise, intellectual banks of ideas and solutions, and channel these by utilising the proliferation of media to protest against the hijacking of transnationalism by the malevolent agents aforementioned. Bring public pressure from within and without, act as the unofficial Fourth Estate in exposing atrocities and failures in ensuring social justice throughout, socialising governments and peoples into investing themselves into a mutually-strengthening relationship between themselves as members of their respective communities and members of global civil society.

Of course, global civil society cannot possess pretensions to world government, and any move towards creating concretised laws of enforcement designed to punitively punish deviant behaviour should not be encouraged. Instead, global civil society harnesses transnationalism as the medium through which social norms and practices can be established between willing participants suited to their specific conditions and circumstances such that it benefits them, and not a covenant imposed upon them as though it were a one-size-fits-all approach (as has been done in terms of conditional assistance, modernisation, trade liberalisation dictated by the IMF, World Bank). We cannot afford to mismanage transnationalism the same way globalisation has continued to be mismanaged up till this day.

As for precision pharma products, there needs to be enforcement of measures to protect indigenous knowledge in developing countries. One problem why big pharma companies have been able to sue and outmanoeuvre these low-cost producers is due to the race in devleoped countries to patent everything and anything, then lobbying to extend patent periods in order to protect their profits while local populations in the afflicted countries are unable to benefit from the low-cost substitutes. Stricter restrictions need to be enforced such that the patent will be granted only if a new drug has a significantly greater effect than a predecessor. This is only one of several approaches that need to be undertaken to minimise the blatant impunity with which special interests have been hoarding technology and innovation to feed their pockets, in the process disincentivising innovation in developing countries and creating an atmosphere of auto-regulation and 'self-censorship'.

Issues of intellectual property theft have to be weighed against the urgency of social justice, the needs of local communities against the needs of the profilgate and wealthy.

A Jacksonian said...

Harrison - Adaptive code utilizes primitive 'tools' (sets of code with known, but limited function), input of data, have a 'mutation cycle' to re-arrange code (add, subtract or randomly change pieces of existing code), they then process the code and give output. Much of what that code will do is based on the primitives they have, so that basic sensor types of minimalist sort are available for sensors while some things like regression and math tools are available to those analyzing market trends.

At start a very minimal set of tools are given as the 'genes' of code and an initial random packager that gets output is included and the code then self-builds, with the packager giving variation. Those that adapt to the input are kept and mutated with a cross-pollination phase, those that do not are eliminated from the pool of software. Each generation is then measured against the 'known' (be it actual temperature reading or the next day/week/year of market trends). The measurement is external, humans run the preferential part of the selection environment that nature runs for regular evolution. Each program's packager starts to randomly take parts from other software, vary the internal running code of its own and create 'children'. That new generation then repeats the input/output/human measurement and then wiping out the 'unfit' and sending the 'fit' through another cycle. Usually the early measurements are done via very limited software for the 'best fit' so the entire cycle only has human bias on what is being measured, not how the end result is gotten to.

What you get is environment selected randomized code with a bias to processes that drives software to refine how it measures the input. As the ability to do that gets better, the selection qualifications are tightened... at some point in the process, after X thousands of iterations, you have code that is now yielding results but have not been exposed to a longer environment, and it is in shifting that environement that the adaptability of code to new input comes into play, with a capability to handle existing input already known.

We do not know *how* that code actually works internal to the programs. We can take it, decompile it and make it human readable, but it has no human input, isn't commented as to what is done by each section of code and one has to try and trace out activity based on what is seen. Like in regular evolution, some code seems to add *nothing* to the final output and yet removing it alters the software functionality. In the thermometer example, they had some parts of the FPGA that just did 'useless things' that made no sense to us... remove those pieces, however, and the ability to take a reading that was accurate disappeared. The software had invented 'something' that was non-obvious to humans and yet absolutely vital to its function set: it was a survival trait.

The fully automated market systems have run likewise, now, for over 5 years and have similar internal anomolies: we don't know what sections of code actually *do* for the overall function of the program and yet if you remove or change those in a 'sandbox' of non-live cash and yet real market data, they perform less well than their parent stock. These systems create an internal set of rules that have adapted them to the input and output environment plus to survive the selection process and they have created a way to adapt to those things they are measuring and measured 'against'. They are creating internal tools and systems to survive analyzing the human driven market and yield best performance based on the market past history and its variables, their own ability to measure those things, their ability to predict future market trends and then survive to create a generations of progeny with changes that may or may not be more robust than the parent stock.

Amongst all those market factors are the major movers and their impact on the market: that is in the data.

How the software adapts to that input we do not know as the major movers are not addrssed as entities but as part of the environment of the overall market: they are environmental and to be adapted to. That they *are* adapted to is beyond a doubt, years of market returns demonstrate that. How the software does it? We can't really say, even when the code is before us to be analyzed... we are not the program living in its environment and having a selective pressure on us. This code meets the needs of that pressure. All of what we are that drives the market are adaptation pressures to that software type. Just like with indidivual humans, we can say that the broad class of humans have certain characteristics, but how each individual human does what he or she does, is not easily analyzed.

The concept of 'self-fulfilling market' is self-fulfilling to what? In adapting to the changing market environment (and as this is evolutionary code, those running such allow new generations to spawn and are tested against current generations and market data, with new software added to the final and surviving mix) if that environment changes then the software mix changes: it is not static and evolves to meet the changing market. Our adaptation to these tools is taken into account by the tools and *they* adapt to our adaptation. This will never be a majority of the market as what 'sane' individual will trust even a significant portion of their savings to software that we really have no idea as to how it works? Humans will place much trust in machines and software, but on code that adapts, evolves, changes with money involved? This is driving the larger investment houses, however, to try and understand what they are doing, how it can be modeled and how their environmental impact on the market is predictable. Think of it: if mere evolutionary software can characterize your activity and make predictions on it, then your organization has gotten predictable. To some organizations this offers 'stability', but to others, especially 'hedge funds' and such, this has got to be extremely worrying as their market impact is based on being unique in their observations to catch the overall market unawares to their activity. Having even a small segment that can adapt to that and predict it in the way the market moves in response to a hedge-fund or other organization/fund type like that? And one segment of that is a true, scientific 'black box': how it works is unknown save for what it takes in and what it yields out. Even the folks running it don't know what the software 'really' does beyond what it 'apparently' does.

It is a fascinating area of study as the ability to have actual new computing devices appear via the larger scale FPGAs now allow software to create new computing devices. Many cell phones now have 'adaptable antennas' that constantly shift the internal FPGA antenna system based on evolutionary code. The antenna gets better to find the carrier signal and enhance it... how? It works, but exactly how and why is not easily understood, even for something as simple as an antenna.

This area of computers has always offered vast possibilities, but we become uncomfortable when we start to realize that what the generated systems do is not predictable like good, old fashioned hand-made software.

A subset of this is the 'neural network' of programs that interconnect to adjust and adapt to the environment. Here a series of known pieces interconnects via less than known pathways to allow software that adapts to real-time changes in the environment. Again, by allowing the connetions to be internally self-made, but non-apparent to function, overall function is created and adapted across the network itself. When combined with adaptive programs, you then have a self-creating, self-interconnecting set of nodes in a program environment space that is continually changing to meet external phenomena.

This is fun stuff, and most of this I'm dredging out of memory from 6 years or so ago... neural nets have been employed in test situations to predict prosaic things like blood flow through a tumor and most probably 'escape routes' for individuals in a given environment taking environmental variables (mode of transport being prime) into account. We are, in many ways, still learning of the capabilities of these tools and game designers will probably press this the most to yield us adaptable games and environments that react not only naturally to our presence but adjust to play styles as time goes on: the game learns how you play and utilizes that to challenge one's play.

These tools and those yielded by better manufacturing of equipment yield us results that challenge some of our basics of what humans can or should do, while re-affirming those concepts of leaving those decisions to adaptive individuals who gauge the impact on themselves and their communities. Human made higher level systems prove brittle over time: they adapt less well, are less flexible, retain less adaptability and eventually fail over time. That said, a village today still has all the hallmarks of one from 5,000 years ago, even for all the differences in technology, the societal actions have not changed all that much. That most human need to congregate in identifiable organizational groups, which Jefferson points out:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

The most basic right is to FORM into such groups that HAVE differences in outlook. From that proceeds the right to protect such groups from others, as an organized structure. Transnationalism wishes to utilize group phenomena and exploit it to rule and, in that doing, slowly erase the meaning of being in a group via history and culture. Our current environment supports differences amongst groups to come to better ends via different ways of viewing the world. By homogenizing culture, humans become more atomic and have fewer differences amongst themselves and become replaceable objects to society. By emphasizing the differences we do get a bloodier interplay between cultures and societies, but better institutions are slowly created to secure those differences and promulgate them - the individual becomes the main contributing point to these things and a necessary mover of society.

I part ways with the Transnational Left and Right in their attempts to homogenize culture via economic enforcement and then the more brutal 'real' enforcement of the powers of the State. By seeing people as societal 'objects' and putting rights on the 'to be traded' table, we lose the meaning of the source of those rights being internal to each and every one of us. I would sooner trust adaptable software that is a black box as it adapts to human culture and society, rather than to have such new and bland culture imposed by humans just 'trying to make the world a better place' by removing all the nasty little bits that make us human.

Harrison said...

Thanks, kurt, for expounding upon the complexities of adaptive code. We don't necessarily know what each new portion of code adds to the entire structure, or how it specifically enhances the functionability or efficiency of the program. Yet the question might be posed: should we be fixated on how each code functions in relation to the whole in order to maximise potential or stability? Perfection or satisfaction?

Of course, the ideal result would be to achieve maximum potential, and if expectations are geared in that direction, then human satisfaction would not be attained until perfection in the markets were attained. The problem with this is, without the benefit of historical hindsight, we can never predict what that maximum potential is. The race for efficiency requires the minimisation or substitution of those parts of code that simply don't function as well as other parts - as judged by superficial analysis (since we still can't understand how they work, the level of analysis that is being conducted may be termed as 'superficial', or on the surface) - for more efficient parts to maximise the potential of the program. However, if our objective is stability and satisfaction, we need not necessarily weed out what seems 'inefficient' but only what is obviously hampering the functionability of the program (the 'corrupt' portions of code). Until the day comes where we are able to understand how each part of the code works in relation to the whole, we may just have to contend with the 'neutral' portions of code. Obviously, the adaptive code has somehow 'found' use for each and every part of its structure over a period of time, and divorcing those portions from the whole will require the code to adapt again.

Again, transnationalism as a process, if managed can possibly foster mutually strengthening institutions and regimes of behaviour that can 'secure those differences and promulgate them'. If left to its own devices, I agree with your conclusion that certain opportunistic groups will exploit it in order to crowd out, devalue and systematically eradicate opposing groups - destroying identity and individuality in due time. The seductive appeal of transnationalism capitalises on this basic right to form groups with deviations of outlook from those established by hegemonic discourses existing in the world today, spread either by governments, propaganda wings of crime and terrorist networks, or any other self-proclaimed authority. The fatal flaw in unmanaged transnationalism lies in the fact that you can count on these groups abusing such power and exploiting zero accountability to electorates, while proclaiming to work 'for the greater good' and 'humanity'. Of course, we can never tell which transnational entities have malevolent intentions, but that doesn't mean we should reject transnationalism altogether - we should seek to moderate its excesses (as displayed by the Transnational Left and Right) and impose our own informal system of checks and balances upon their actions. The only workable solution requires us to seek out methods to manage transnationalism and promote incentives that align the interests of local communities living in an increasingly globalised civil society. At no step in this process should we forget the intrinsic rights of the individual, and his or her irreplaceability in relation to the whole of global civil society.

It is deeply ironic that through the homogenisation of culture, lesser differences results in greater ease in liquidation; while accentuation of uniqueness may in the short-term stir conflict, in the long-term such the necessity to actively struggle and defend one's uniqueness is the key to ensuring its survivability and longevity.

A Jacksonian said...

Harrison - On the adaptive code, Stephen Jay Gould's The Structure of Evolutionary Theory posits that the genomes of animals contain much in the way of 'junk code' that serves as partial back-ups for well running parts of the genome and as sources of future variability. While within a year after his death that had to drop by the wayside as we found much in the way of utility in such parts of the genome of humans, in computer code these code reservoirs may serve just that purpose. Thus, even though it may have little active or useful role to play in the running code it may serve great utility for allowing code to be more adaptable for future generations of descendants. There is also the concept that the actual hardware the code runs on has, itself, timing systems that are inherent in the speed of code execution so that 'non functioning' portions may serve as timing delay mechanisms for one reason or another... the wonder of adaptive code is that it is not internally self-deterministic but is representative of surviving the human set conditions which are unknown to the code itself. By surviving it can thrive and attempt to continue to survive even as its progeny has variation to compete better than its parent(s). It is an extremely fascinating area of work, because what we have are a large group of known ideas and structures that, when allowed to work on their own, yield things we can't figure out. The reason we decompile these code systems is to try and understand those gaps in our understanding so we can get a better idea how to craft decent computer coding structures. What we think we know is challenged by the outcomes of these systems and that points to us as having missed something in our thinking process: as creator we can now be baffled by our creations.

I separate Transnationalism into two major parts: 1) Ideologically driven - Progressivism and Stateless Capitalism being the two main sections here, but this also includes Transnational Terrorism seeking to erode the Nation state foundations, and,

2) Functional Transnationalism - Structures that are not ideologically driven, but arise out of our ability and need to communicate, things like the internet, banking system, aircraft rules and regulations... purely functional aspects to allow international trade and commerce to happen.

The former takes a stance on the position of the individual and the Transnational organs that are seeking to displace the Nation state system. The latter does not, as they are services to allow things to happen that are useful to many peoples across many Nations. It is rare when infrastructure, itself, becomes an ideologically driven system and normally these systems fall under the sway of whatever the powers are that finally gain control over the State (in this case an over-arching system unaligned to Nations but to itself). These infrastructure systems serve ends based on who uses them, while those seeking to gain control of them wish to make them 'efficient'... that being in the National Socialist mode of 'making the trains run on time' as in Italy.

I place Transnational Organized Crime, as the Red Mafia or Triads into both, however, as their work is meeting a need, and thus theoretically neutral, but in doing that the need itself is illicit to many Nations and thus undermines the Nation state system giving it a pseudo-ideological bent. But it gains that latter only due to the type of trade it encourages and lives on, so atomization is via the breakdown of agreed upon law between Nations which is a corrosive agent to the Nation state system.

While the neutral system types serve to help bring humanity together in a diverse way, the organizational structures (UN, WTO, and so on) become homogenizing and disassociative structures (while the terrorist become highly repressive and retrograde ones also seeking isolation to increase anomie and spread of their views). It is always interesting to hear the 'One Worlders' go on about how mankind will work to be one continuous state of being, and then put forth that these current homogonizing structures are just the thing for it. Humanity has, however, always kept local differences (often harshly) even when joining in larger groups and those associations take time to make. From the rise of the first City States to City State based Empires was hundreds of years, at least. From those to actual Nation states was hundreds if not thousands of years more to weld the first diverse set of City States into a more or less permanent National structure. The hundred fifty or so Principalities in the Germanies point out that problem from their first formulations after the fall of Rome to their final annealing in the late 19th century. That was at least 700 years if not more to accomplish and by the end of it Germany would be a Nation and the 'German Question' that had haunted Europe all of those centuries was finally brought to an end. Mind you they already had international trade going on for the last half or more of that, yet those functions would be interfered with by religious institutions and other Nations and that fractionated the Germanies over and over again. That is why, when looking at the Transnational neutral structures and hearing suggestions of some lovely ruling body or bodies I get distinctly cold shivers: the history of the Germanies points to a major problem with that, as does India, The Balkans, parts of South America and Pakistan. While Germany and India came to some good conclusion on these things, these other areas are set to crumble if an attempt is made to bring outside order to them by Transnational fiat. Iraq is proving to be the first point in the history of the Middle East where *not* doing that is being attempted. If Iraq can hold together and succeed for 20 years or so more, it will have demonstrated that outside help that does *not* impose order can help local cultures to create new order.... very much like that adaptive code. And like that it may not look like we expected it to, but it will be recognizable in its functions and outlooks. That is a vast learning process of societal liberty that will prove a crucible for our ideas about society, culture and individualism.

We are stepping, once more, into one of those periods in history where things are going to change in ways we cannot now predict... but if we, as individuals, can remember our heritage and work with others on building something new, then we may, indeed come together and create something that is not a pre-thought out homogenizing structure. But we can only do that if we remain adaptable and seek out the reservoirs of adaptability in our cultures and ourselves.

So far very few want to do that, and prefer the anonymity of atomization. It is very safe and easy to become a non-person, and very much easier after that to lose all identity until you no longer have any liberty and freedom has vanished because of comfort. We have chosen comfort for so long that we may not recognize this... and that is very highly worrying for us as a species.