We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ways to Screen Political Candidates

The goal of acquiring better politicians and eliminating influence of money in government points to an exam based selection system as the means

How to better achieve the age old goal of having political candidates that are right for the job? The job of course being to visibly and tangibly advance social welfare and involves:

a- decreasing price (in caloric energy spent) while increasing quality/quantity of food, electrical output, transport, shelter, education  
b- decreasing necessity for backbreaking work and subsistence living  
c- increasing safety from violence and coercion and advancing interethnic harmony
d- preserving and even expanding human autonomy during the process of all of the above

Yes, very difficult and definitely not the type of job that morons, pandering charismatic narcissists, rich man's stooges, and quick fix/gimmick driven individuals should engage in. Unfortunately, very often these days these 4 types are blended into one toxic package. To know what we want from candidates is to conceptualize a way to screen them. The public desires 3 basic simultaneous things from a person seeking power:

1) sufficiently competent to run and evolve technologically complex and very populous (over 10 million people) social units
2) sufficiently independent of oligarchic corporate influence
3) sufficiently legitimate in eyes of the public without it minimizing 1) and 2) (successfully approved by some sort of democratic input)

It is becoming very clear that neither public or private financing of candidates is achieving these. Rather than engaging in a futile task of tweaking an easily abused system (more public financing, ban on ads, regulating funds, etc), it is possible to cut off degradation and corruption of the candidate pool at the root. What needs to be made structurally obsolete is a need for money in politics in the first place. This in turn eliminates the need for advanced election marketing propaganda, fund raising pandering, and for extremely self absorbed individuals that possess a solid acting/lying/showmanship ability.

Screening method 1: Technical Exam

As previously mentioned, since economics is an engineering challenge, it is imperative to dramatically increase the quantity of candidates with scientific, civil engineering, and technical backgrounds. This calls for a comprehensive examination that candidates have to pass. Unlike the 1920s progressive era desire to screen voters via literacy tests and such, screening of ambitious power hungry candidates will find a lot more support. Relatively unbiased apolitical technical exams can rapidly be formulated and mandated for those who are to appear on the ballot the same way signature collection is.

The difficulty of the examination process can depend on the level of responsibility the candidate will possess. Perhaps the highest offices in the land may mandate taking a general exam, then secondary more closely watched exam for top 10% of scorers, and finally a final filtering test for 10% top scorers of surviving group. The last individuals left standing (say 10 people) can then be put under rigorous investigation of their personal and psychological backgrounds and be made to engage in debates before the public finally votes for who they want.

"But who controls the process!!?? Who makes the exams!!!??? Wouldn't rich people just have super specialized prep schools to create super engineers that always pass!!?? We're back to where we started!!!"

Sigh. The rich ivy leaguers are nowhere near as advantaged under the examination system since they would not get the automatic social networking and money raising boost. The materials to pass would be much more diffused and available in society (unlike the ivy social networking advantage many politicians have that prevents average people from even trying to run for office). This means that more people can try their luck at higher office. Additionally, due to the color blind nature of the meritocratic candidate selection process, the chances are a lot better for a highly qualified individual to make it into the final candidate pool (who would otherwise not get there due to voter bias against race, gender, ethnic group, age, class, etc).

We must keep in mind that the goals of candidate competence and independence from corporate control determine the means of candidate selection. If for example, one looks at a hypothetical proposal where some sort of social networking-video presentation candidate selection method is implemented, it becomes clear that once again the visually presentable and narcissistic are at an advantage. Visual selection of candidates via videos of speeches filters out the potentially far more competent individuals who may be camera shy, not be sufficiently attractive, not possess superb verbal eloquence, and so on. As of today, politics is dominated by extroverted semi psychopathic backstabbing individuals who are very eloquent and presentable. This corporate type led our society to disastrous consequences on a planetary scale. Reducing reliance on video presentation and increasing other ways of evaluation is key.

The exam itself would consist of sections such as systems thinking, civil engineering, organizational architecture, basic materials science, energy science, history, systems analysis, organizational psychology, infrastructure design, etc. If children of rich people do have some advantage of specialized prep schools, so be it, they'll be better occupied than snorting coke and becoming lawyers.

Screening method 2: Psychiatric Exam

This would test candidates for psychopathy using cutting edge medical and psychological means. This is a very serious if not the most critical issue for leadership filtering in terms of preventing damage to society. Further information concerning the societal justification can be found here.

A hypothetical argument against this can be made from certain possibility that as the ability to pass the technical exam increases, the ability to pass the psychiatric one decreases. This may be true to a degree considering schizoidia leaning introverted individuals with low empathy may excel more at engineering and systems analysis the colder their temperaments are. What has to be kept in mind is that a degree of physiologically determined empathy and emotional intelligence is not in conflict with competence but is a significant characteristic of it (especially for a political leader). To see some discussion on taking emotionality into consideration when determining policy in a group context (or even formulating a candidate exam), see here.

The reader can be assured that humanity can overcome the problem of balancing the need to screen out genuine psychopaths (who are not likely to be synonymous with advanced technical/analytic ability to begin with according to Lobaczewski) from the candidate pool while allowing very cold but harmless people to participate in evolution of social policy.

Final thoughts:

It is worth noting that technical and psychological exams can be applied to all levels of public recruitment even if the leadership is still selected completely democratically. A council of engineers instead of council of economists by the side of the mayor, governor, or president would go a long way. Some countries have already engaged in trying to screen out psychopaths during hiring of new police officers. This can be expanded easily to entry level positions within all public hierarchies. If we are to have proper reindustrialization of the Western world, the public cadres must be up to the level of the task.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guide to Effective Protests: Dress Code

Which picture shows people who are more serious?

The title was going to be "making demonstrations more effective" until I realized my previous titles increasingly began with ING suffix words. This reminded me that the trend of statements with ING suffix starters seemed to pick up pace under Bush. He would make many speeches in front of a background that would be endlessly covered with written tidbits like "rebuilding American families", "increasing opportunities", "making heartland strong", etc.

News organizations caught this propaganda flu as well. Since adding the ING suffix creates an action noun and conveys that continuous action is happening, it could very well be that GOP came up with very effective, psychological, and viral informational tool. Instead of definitive statements conveying a beginning and end such as "The act of 2006 caused this" we got streams of meaningless and cerebrally confusing "financing our future" which just told that vague action is happening nonstop. Perfect for 24/7 cable and do nothing politicians since definitive statements with an end would invite thought. Bush excelled at psych ops.

When talking about increasing effectiveness of protests, it is good to remember that the gathering of demonstrators is primarily a psychological propaganda tool for various media and apathetic middle class sections of the public. During the Bush era, the early Iraq war protests numbered in the hundreds of thousands. These protests were dramatically ineffective and not just due to 3 major media conglomerates deciding to ignore them. These anti-war gatherings were utilizing shockingly outdated methods (if they were ever that effective to begin with considering cultural backlash in 1970s).

The participants thought that the sheer numbers of people would be enough to catch the media's eye. Many of the baby boomer organizers have been using the same tactics that seemed to be successful decades ago and for which the establishment and society at large had developed a serious immunity. It may have been shocking and eye catching to have colorfully dressed hyper individuals in large numbers in 1960s in one place. In 2003 however, the insistence than protesters find their own unique way of expressing discontent became counterproductive since MSM was able to use it as a weapon of ridicule when it wasn't ignoring. It was easy pickings to zoom in on the strangest looking hippy or funniest paper meche statue.

Anybody who was exposed to this silly groan inducing spectacle could not have come away psychologically impressed. The actual target audience, politically dominant elderly and middle aged voters in the western world (majority of them were not on the side of earlier protesters in 60s/70s) were exposed to the wrong psychological marketing strategy and completely counterproductive anti-war propaganda.

The organizers would complain that just getting everybody organized enough to show up was an accomplishment. If they faced such critical organizational issues they should have spent serious energy on creating a perception of organization that was lacking. This is easily accomplished with a general agreement on what to wear and what color theme the demonstration should be.

It may sound silly but one just has to look back at US suffrage movement and the various CIA engineered "color revolutions" in eastern Europe in recent years. The green "movement" in Iran for instance was comprised of multitudes of various groups and previously unaffiliated individuals yet it miraculously became transformed into a monolithic "movement" with a simple color emphasis.

The effect of 2003 protests would have been multiplied dramatically if everybody showed up in their most formal wear and decided on a singular color. All it takes is for organizers to send a simple message to those attending such as "whatever you do show up in work pants/work skirt and a white shirt and wear a cheap blue headband or scarf, etc". When a reporter takes a picture of 50,000 people each dressed individualistically, it looks as you'd expect, just a horde of disorganized people. However a picture of 50,000 all dressed in office cubicle formal wear that also has blue headbands and occasional blue flags would be visually and psychologically stunning. It would:

1) Prevent reporters (both MSM and amateur) from singling out the strangest looking costumes and pretty much force more wide crowd shots since shots of so many people wearing the same are better photography in general (think psych ops of crowd shots in 2003 Ukraine and 2009 Iran). More media coverage is guaranteed.

2) Create the illusion of organization and "movement" which in turn invites giving the whole coalition of diverse groups an umbrella nickname (even simple tea bags can do this much less blue headbands)

3) Most importantly the psychological effect on elderly people (who see a crowd of crisp well dressed people of all ages) would go further in achieving the aim of the event in the first place. Even if the demonstration gets a derogative nickname like "bluebaggers/bluetesters" etc it would still give power to "movement" by putting it under one category. People like to lump things into categories.

Doing something as simple and seemingly trivial as coordinating color and asking everybody to wear a white shirt automatically starts a process of integration where common themes and slogans are developed. It may be asking too much to also coordinate 3 simple phrases such as "Telling to End Afghanistan War" to utilize propaganda of repetition as a voice of the crowd. It may also be asking too much to have everybody at a protest shut up and walk in solemn silence for a mile to create a psychological sense of gravity in onlookers. It may definitely be too much to replicate the simple parade formation walking that suffragettes showed.

But when people feel seriously enough about something to gather in a large crowd (knowing that the crowd itself is a marketing tool) then they should also take the next step to demonstrate their seriousness instead of treating the event like a giant Halloween party, music festival, or socializing opportunity. Until common tricks to multiply message are used, American protesters will not show they are serious no matter how they feel on the inside. Then again, in today's climate next time there are that many people in the streets the catchy nickname they'd get may be pitchforkers.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Constructing Efficient Socieconomic Systems

Part 1: A second look at non-technological top down approaches we're already familiar with

The last article touched upon a simple overarching goal that seems to have been lost in the discourse about the public sector. That is, constantly using cutting edge engineering and technological knowhow to create a bigger energy bang for your energy buck when delivering goods and services via public means. When one makes the effort to replace a plow with a tractor one has greatly cut spending in terms of energy/resources over the long run.

Many governments in the world are the plow/ horse and buggy equivalents. Throwing more money for a better plow isn't going to cut it in the 21st century. Public tools at humanity's disposal must be restructured to meet the demands ahead, these demands being mass scale production of fission and fusion reactors to power up southern hemisphere and reindustrialization of the Western world.

Future public sectors will be judged in how they balance:

1) preservation/expansion of human autonomy


2) speed in construction of energy plants needed for continental infrastructure projects in irrigation, transport, farming, etc.

The idea will be to create virtuous cycles where the public tools and infrastructural products of said tools reinforce each other in a rapid movement forward.

No, this is not a call to emulate China (as some in the West are beginning to do) or argument for some sort of a scientific dictatorship (although after the current ghastly rule by bankers and lawyers a congress/parliament of scientists would be a liberating breath of fresh air). Efficiency should not be a dirty word. The word was certainly dragged through the mud by free market economists (the energy logistics behind outsourcing being so inefficient as to make Soviet central planners blush) but we can reclaim it.

Many people are currently focused on bottom up structural reform within their communities and micro governance in general. That is all good but before we move on to that lets remember that there are always 3 other basic ways to get things moving on a macro level. Additionally, whether reform is from above or below, the extent to which it is possible depends on a certain level of technological development and proper implementation of communication devices, transport, etc.

Common top down types of restructuring to bring about efficiency on a macro scale:

A) Breaking up larger political structures geographically to infuse the newly independent parts with new life and autonomy. Example: dissolution of Austria-Hungarian Empire and USSR. After the fragments became independent they learned how to function and are now joining up again in new economic/political blocks on their own free will. Think of it as a bloated monopoly or an unwieldy AOL/Time Warner merger coming apart. When the different parts don't compliment each other well (if they are kept together by historical force or if the ethnic groups don't mix well), then major public sector efficiency gains can be made locally through splitting up the country. Some even argue that countries should have population caps (ranging from 10-50 million people) as small countries provide best examples of governmental streamlining.

If large entities like India, China, or United States (it can easily be 5-7 smaller federal unions) are split up, the fragments can reorganize and then merge again in a fashion that is more productive for all. This is not realistic brainstorming in most cases but lets continue to illustrate types of macro reform that may be attempted in unforeseen regions in the future.

It may presently be absurd to join the already huge and ungovernable Mexico and USA together with Canada to form a North American Union. However, if Mexico splits, if USA splits, and then if Canada splits, after 10-15 years of independence the newly streamlined governments of fragments can rearrange into a North American Union that is dramatically more productive. This of course is recommended for those bloated beasts that can split without bloodshed (once again you know who you are... Indian subcontinent).

B) Joining industrial enterprises together to create economies of scale.
One may think that A) contradicts itself. Why would countries join together again (even partially) after political decentralization and independence? Once again, efficiency is the reason. Think of a hypothetical federal union that has 3 major states: Mexas, Malifornia, and Mew Mork. The country has one large industrial monopoly (Mockheed Lartin) that makes advanced passenger planes. The factories to assemble the airplane parts are scattered throughout the union, research facilities concentrated in one part, vertically integrated mines in another and so on. If this imaginary country splits up, the new governments may become a lot more efficient, responsive/closer to the people, freer, have greater energy and ability to do things faster, etc. However, the new sovereigns of Mexas, Malifornia, and Mew Mork may suffer greatly if Mockheed Martin is similarly split up into three pieces. That is because synergy between the parts of the industrial giant has been lost. The new countries will be left with pieces of a giant and will not be able to barter planes for other things that they need (or even provide planes for themselves in the short term as cheaply as before). The slow down of real physical economy would then negate benefits from acceleration of the political process.

This is not to say that all industrial monopolies with a global reach are synergetic. Lockheed Martin for instance purposefully decentralizes its operations through all 50 states to influence congressmen which creates ridiculous cost overruns and logistical inefficiencies. But if one looks at how European Union and USA emerged, there were major industrial enterprises driving the integration. When it comes to infrastructure builders and providers for products like MagLev trains, tunnels, and canals it's obvious that some organisms need to stay together and expand for cheaper utilization of materials and assembly lines. Industrial giants benefit from size and are the only way to advance real physical economy and wealth of the world.

Therefore, if we continue discussion of what may be best for North America, the optimal restructuring may be: the 3 great countries on the continent splitting into a bunch of smaller sovereign political units (while preserving their industrial links) THEN coming together again as a North American EU confederate  equivalent and THEN creating singular continental industrial monopolies to take advantage of economies of scale. This way North American Union can fully utilize its resources to stamp out planes, trains, fission reactors in large cheap quantities to compete with similar continent wide industrial giants elsewhere. These continental giants would dwarf Gazprom and most likely be born from bilateral/multilateral agreements between sovereign governments (rather than any private interests). At this scale, such continental industries are necessarily public property as a mater of simple energy economics and common sense. On a longer timeline, this process would eventually lead to UN being partially or fully in charge of a planetary electrical grid, irrigation construction, and other things of sufficiently international scale.

C) Finally another structural reform is elimination of local governments. In parts of northeastern USA, the oldest parts of the country, there is an absolutely absurd, archaic, and insanely inefficient overlap of tiny local governments. An area and population that would simply and cheaply be covered by a county government in the Midwest would have an ancient village government, a town government, and various neighboring microgovernments all fighting tooth and nail with each other as if it was some Middle Age feudal principality.

Often, a good way to cut spending is to simply wipe out local governments and replace them with one bigger horizontal government with a flat managerial structure that can provide goods and services cheaply by utilizing its larger negotiating power. Unlike A) which wipes out an umbrella gov, C) creates a new umbrella gov for localities while eliminating those under it. Feudal political middlemen on the village level may sound like they are close to the people but when it comes to adding to resource costs and societal progress they stand in the way like some strange Western tribal elders. Here is an example of a fiasco that can occur.

This will be all for now, I'll return to question of efficiency and its interplay with human autonomy in later parts as well as discuss micro bottom up approaches.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to Raise Public Sector Efficiency

It is not a secret anymore that the "choice" between raising taxes and cutting public services is a false one.

Shrinking the government without drowning it in any bathtub is something we lost sight of. Similar to how the amount of workers in agriculture sector went from a quarter of the labor force to 1% of it, the government workers can shrink in numbers while delivering more. This involves meritocratic placement of system engineers and scientists in administrative charge instead of lawyers and political appointees.

Streamlining of bureaucratic functions and restructuring of service delivery mechanisms allows budgetary savings without raising additional taxes or resorting to cuts in provisions. This realization is especially key for advanced countries around the world as they struggle with the convulsions of a gradually dying monetarist debt based system. Reforms to raise the efficiency of the public middlemen are very important since they prepare us for the long and difficult transition to a post-monetarist resource based socioeconomics.

Even citizens of countries like Germany, a country that has weathered the international depression remarkably well, have to put up with a ridiculous false dilemma of either less spending on infrastructure/public provisions or higher taxes. Angela Merkel, a former physicist, may hopefully yet show the world how productive politics are done.

[ Please note: this discussion has the bottom 90% of citizens in mind who are most affected by the presentation of between a rock and a hard place construct. Taxes on the richest people should be hiked without mercy to pre neoliberal wave levels (especially in the English speaking world). This will make up for some of the looting that has occurred. Sarkozy's recent quest for an international Tobin Tax is a great start. ]

Shrinking the government without drowning it in any bathtub:

Often politicians don't focus on restructuring the public sector for the following two reasons:

1) It is a very difficult task both politically and logistically and requires long term effort. It doesn't produce the wanted quick pre-election results in a democratic system. Making the post office work 20% better so it requires 20% less funds is not a flashy gimmick to present to the crowds.

2) The majority of money that backs many politicians in the western world come from public unions and oligarchs. Both of these have deep interests in stifling efforts to raise efficiency.

Raising efficiency of transportation delivery for example may require replacement of some public workers with machines. This creates a clash with organized public labor. In the English speaking world, the government is the last place where unions have any real power and middle class wages and thus it becomes a fierce last stand.

The wealthy on the other hand can point to the politically created inefficiency of the public sector as an example of private sector superiority and use this comparison to call for cuts in public services. It becomes less palatable to raise taxes to support something that refuses to streamline. Cutting money spent on an inefficient "bloated" middleman without reform makes the services even worse.

One may think that many wealthy would call for reforming the PS instead of butchering it when pro-higher tax sentiment wins on occasion. However that would aide the idea that government can actually provide something well. A solid example is GOP puppets in USA making public sector dysfunctional deliberately to make privatization of it an easier sell.

Once the public fully realizes (that raising PS efficiency by 50% is not only doable but would allow a surplus of funds which can then be used to either lower taxes or increase quality/quantity of services), reforms can proceed. The problem of what to do with displaced public workers is not different than one facing anybody else replaced by machines. In fact, we will be able to face this key global question sooner. The sooner the better.

Privatization with its own mass scale inefficiencies due to overhead and profit driven qualitative degradation is NOT an option. Privatization of public heavy industry and other large organs drains a lot more wealth out of society long term than even lack of reform.

The solution is mass scale focus on filling the top ranks of government bureaucracies and enterprises with engineers and scientists. Just like economics is an engineering challenge, so is streamlining of delivery mechanisms for social goods. The relative success of the French public service sector can be directly attributed to large scale presence of technically minded people at the top. The same allowed East Germany to be the most productive country within the old communist block.

Regulations: Not more or less red tape but improving the quality of the tape so less is used in the first place

Same principle applies to regulative functions. "Throwing money at the problem" always pales in comparison to better implementation of advanced technological tools and application of systems theory.

Major reform is not for everyone. Some societies (you know who you are) are so rotten that major reform would destabilize them the way sudden exercise may give a very unhealthy person a heart attack. Such societies will have to do the equivalent of dying first in order for the public sector reform to truly begin within a new reincarnated body.

Stumble Upon Toolbar