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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Urban Planning of Experimental Satellite Cities

Rapid urbanization in the third world offers a chance to cheaply try out urbaneering with various built from scratch functional "theme" cities. 

A resource rich continent like Africa that is experiencing an average annual GDP growth of 5-10% will soon have a lot of governments with funds to try out prestige projects. Satellite cities offer national elevation into global spotlight, economic usefulness, public works program, access to foreign technologies, and opportunity to leapfrog over the West in some infrastructure development. Other parts of the developing world already see movement towards concept theme cities built from scratch. Notable examples are Abu Dhabi's renewable energy focused Masdar City and China's 80,000 person green tech focused Great City. The latter shows the most likely design for cities of the future, that is, a densely populated walkable high tech residential core that abruptly ends into pure nature. It is more cost efficient for a developing country to surround a compact city with nature than design nature inside a spread out city. The energy inefficiencies of urban sprawl will soon be demonstrated in industrialized regions of the globe and compactness will be planned from the start.

Although an expensive project, a satellite city stands to rapidly pay for itself if it is themed (such as agriculture focused city providing fruits and vegetables not grown in that part of the world to well off people and government entities of neighboring cities). At first, many of the cities will be a net energy and monetary loss. The input will be greater than the output. However, although a drain, they do provide a public works project and a way to experiment and measure what type of satellite city actually comes closest to paying for itself (note the agri-city example above). In this regard early satellite cities are similar to Tokamak proof of concept fusion reactors. Those reactors were necessary to start building ITERThen of course it stands to rapidly pay for itself once figured out (much better allocation of resources than warfare and mass murder).

Some universities and even mega factories have membership of over 50,000 people. It is not too out there to design a compact city dedicated to a specific task that has a population capacity of 50 thousand with built in room for 100 thousand if needed (in case interest builds for foreign companies to try out a concept requiring service personnel and foreign presence).

City as a printer

A large printing station has hundreds of little parts with room for additional cartridges and paper amounts. A satellite city should be thought in these terms, as a singular unit that produces surplus objects for nearby non-planned cities. In the more distant future, the task based buildings within these cities will be thought of as printers as well. An example is a vertical automated farm building unit that will have hundreds of parts, inside room for expansion/machine replacement, and robotic harvesting/planting/growing systems that are designed to fit the building neatly the way cartridges are (this building has capacity to store harvesting systems coded 400A through 600A). This allows mass production of modular building floors and mass production of various large equipment units that efficiently fit within. The fitting would happen on construction site of modular floor units or at assembly site, whichever is closer.

Modularity from the machines inside the buildings, to the buildings themselves, to the city itself is essential to start tackling insane energy and resource waste generated currently. Although early experiments should and probably will occur in the developing world, first major and perhaps most interesting applications of satellite and planned cities will likely occur at ground zero of resource waste, North American continent.

Deconstruction of old suburban areas

The planners behind the process of satellite city creation should work in parallel with those in charge of removing and harvesting building materials from urban sprawl areas. Clearing paths for nature, total removal of ghost towns and rotting suburban/rust bell areas, and recycling materials from those areas towards satellite city construction is a multidecade global project. It stands to put millions of those displaced by automation to work during the transition period. Unlike some other job creation projects of no benefit being used in Europe currently (bus inspectors for example), this type of public works is essential for social stability and survival. It is also a type of decentralized public works as all levels of localities can begin to engage in the task of deconstruction and compact construction. City mining allows more readily available source of materials than conventional mining. For proper deconstruction to occur, material processing and reprocessing should become a lot more mobile and decentralized (at first, perhaps involving very large ships servicing coastal areas).

ships keep getting larger at South Korean shipyards
But all these grand causal chain reactions of what needs to be done first start with a prestige project of small compact city that focuses on a specific surplus creation task. Political elites of the resource rich third world (we should return to use of this term rather than developing world, since all are developing) have a chance to take global leadership through satellite city experimentation, leadership that they psychologically want but are unable to take due to military and financial weakness.

Reclaiming nature and construction of sustainable futuristic compact urban areas is the infrastructural "moon landing" of this century. All other infrastructure projects get enormous boost from such a goal. As JFK noted, "... that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..

A focused society is a powerful society. There is no need to wait until China becomes a hegemony to create a focus for the human herd in the West. The theme of "reclaiming nature" through urban wasteland deconstruction (much easier to rapidly do than compact city creation) is very likely to capture the imaginations of the young, especially in the Western world. Thus we have two exciting processes that mutually play off each other, one happening in post-industrialized areas and one in the pre-industrialized areas. Much of the task of generating new electrical energy for Western re-industrialization is a simple matter of bulldozing and harvesting suburbia and heartland towns (that are currently in the process of depopulation).

After a certain point, humanity's measure can be which % of population lives in planned areas versus those living in old unplanned areas. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Future of Kurdistan

Major challenges for the Kurds: The world's largest ethnic group without its own country sitting in a region resembling pre-World War 1 Europe and United States winding down its global oil based empire due to becoming energy independent.

Poor Kurds. Living in an era that requires novel supranational construction and deepening international cooperation on regional, continental, and global levels (to make up for US built global system unwinding over the next 20 years as American elites attempt to gradually socioeconomically re-organize and re-industrialize without a major collapse).

Poor Kurds. No country for them even when tiny Scotland is about to vote on political independence (not just autonomy) while remaining within continental framework of nations. And even Spain's Catalonia is moving in this direction.

Poor Kurds. Kurdistan sort of looks like Poland of the Middle East (pre-1914 once again), partitioned yet with potential for large expenditure of human herd energy if unified. Pre- 2003 invasion political structures in Iraqi Kurdistan for instance were more futuristic and advanced than those in Baghdad itself. A key component of solid nationalism is not only belief in uniqueness and belief in gently superior functionality of the ethnic group's way of life but actuality of this functional superiority. Even their insurgent groups and banned parties seem a bit futuristic. It is interesting that the most effective pan-Kurdish political party in the region, PKK, is secular and socialistic in nature (at a glance, like a more effective Baath party which explains why it was less tolerable for them to live under a regime perceived as less civilized). Let's go further with gently tongue in cheek analogies: If Poland is also the Ireland of central Europe (Catholic and long under the boot of fellow white skinned oppressors) then Kurds are a bit like their Gaelic cousins as well as their Polish cousins (even the supposedly more "primitive" mountain Kurds in Eastern Turkey compared to their Turkish overlords in Istanbul got that highlander thing going).

But let's get serious.

click to enlarge and read the pure madness
Unlike with say, Western Ukrainians, there was never an attempt by a regional power to artificially bolster Kurdish nationalism at any point (Soviets for instance even created alphabets for some people in central Asia to create artificial nationalisms for political reasons). This desire for a Kurdish nation is primordial and real. It is not postmodern economic nationalism as it is with the above mentioned Scottish case, as seen with some Northern Italians, or as was the case with Bellorussians seceding in the early 1990s. It is genuine nationalism born from centuries of struggle and many partial victories.

Poor Kurds. Having higher birthrates in Turkey than Turks themselves and expanding their share of the population (from over 15% in 2000 to over 18% today) yet having their activists and journalists taught the meaning of freedom in the crudest of ways. As Slavoj Zizek points out in the passage to the left.

And even for those Kurds outside Turkey (whose fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers haven't repeatedly fought Istanbul), there is a danger that Syria will soon disintegrate into Libyan style enclave chaos resulting in former Syrian territory coming under Turkish sphere of influence if not outright partial occupation. The new post-Kemalist neoliberal Turkish regime of Erdogan is even more abrasive in its belligerence in many ways due to being new and growing. Turkey has been rivaling Saudi Arabia in human rights abuses recently which we don't hear about it due to it being a NATO member. As American imperial perimeter continues to shrink and controlled chaos destabilization wars of Obama are left lit, we should see Istanbul begin to really flex its muscles for the first time in a long while (we see the start of this in Istanbul's slightly more abrasive tone with Israel and its adventure in Syria). This should rattle Kurdish nerves throughout the region. If Assad's very multicultural regime is to survive in some form, it may depend on Kurdish cooperation.

A More Rational Middle Eastern Map?

Once oil and gas from oil/fracking becomes plentiful and cheap (there is roughly 7 times more oil and frack gas in the world than of current traditional deposits and technology to extract it gets better and cheaper by the day), lots of monarchies in the Middle East are likely to get replaced by republican forms of government due to instability. The Pragmatist has done a very in depth article when it comes to oil price and its relation to violence when it comes to Iraq. The hereditary mafias of various Middle Eastern kingdoms left behind as British-American proxies during the Cold War will be in for a rude awakening (especially considering half their populations are borderline slave migrants). Shale oil stands to lower price of oil to as little as $50 per barrel (in today's dollars) before 2020s (with US and primarily Texas as the epicenter of this revolution). Gas price may dramatically tumble even further as US becomes LNG exporter again.

These developments in energy markets should allow pan-Arabism to re-emerge as a way out of the crisis and for construction of a pan-Arab economic union as a supranational device for regional economic survival and instability management. Once solar, small modular fission reactors, and thorium reactors come online and Middle Eastern budgets completely messed with, we should see remnants of regional monarchic absolutism end fully. Frankly speaking, tourism to medieval anti-social libertarian destinations wont save the various chubby "princes" and "kings". The list of tangible demands that The Pragmatist offered to the Middle Eastern protesters should have included Republicanism.

What does this do to the map of the Middle East?

The end of Jordanian monarchy may make Jordan the true center of a Palestinian state considering the roughly 2 million Palestinians residing there and the multiculturalism of the kingdom. If Gaza isn't swallowed up by Egypt, Jordanian territory with remnants of West Bank should provide more than enough resources for a functional Palestinian nation with Gaza being a sort of Kaliningrad-esque exclave (Gazans should really look at vertical farming tech).

But the Kurds?

Return of Pan-Arabism when it comes to construction of a regional economic union does not interfere with emergence of Kurdistan too much. Arab on Kurd clashes occur on periphery of the Arab world and it is the Persians and the Turks who will have to deal with the Kurdish question most fully.

Kurds are on the periphery of the Arab world and
future Pan-Arab economic unions. They also
partially straddle the Shiite-Sunni border 
Iraq's future is in jeopardy since its intelligentsia has fled, since Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed of Sunni and Ba'ath remnants, and since Iraqi Kurdistan is autonomous enough to have provided a political safe haven for an Iraqi Sunni vice-president who fled a death sentence made by the current Iraqi ruler, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki (leader of a former insurgent organization that sided with Iran during Iraq-Iran war[!]). This means that the only thing preventing Iraqi Kurdistan from declaring full independence is unsettled questions over the oil spoils on Iraqi soil and of course fears over a military alliance of Baghdad and Istanbul to co-invade and re-integrate Northern Iraq in the manner that Saddam Hussein would be proud of.

Don't think that such things don't happen. Recently, an Arab Spring spill over revolt in Bahrain by Shiites was brutally crushed by Bahraini government with tanks sold to it by Germany. With US leaving the region (some of the more radical artificially created "fiscal cliff" solutions involve up to 30% closures for American military bases abroad), we'll see major regional players taking matters into their own hands regardless of what the American powered "West" thinks. Iraq may survive though, language is stronger than religion and Iraq is mostly Arab even if it's dominated by Shiite Arabs. Thus Iraq is the fuzzy border zone where Pan-Arabism ends much like Ukraine is the fuzzy borderzone where Russia sort of ends. Persians and Turks face two difficult options.


Kurdish flag.. Got a cool sun in the center
1) Create a very complicated and sophisticated 21st century pan-Islamic (including all Islamic branches) economic zone that extends influence into Turk and Persian language influenced Central Asia. Turkey is 20% Shiite and Turkish-Iranian cooperation would allow a major counterbalance to re-emergence of Pan-Arab structures if it also takes Kurds into account as relevant players. Kurds have a strong Sufi representation although most are Sunni. This option means keeping Kurdistan fragmented yet with Kurds receiving more cultural and economic rights and advantages. Some pan-Islamic understanding will be necessary anyway for regional stability. For either Istanbul or Tehran to press for cooperation based on it should provide prestige and political magnetism. Just like Europe from Ireland to the Urals has a unifying Christian heritage, policy makers in Middle East and Central Asia (who are all secular hedonists like any intelligent person) will have to reach a similar understanding. Even under rapid, inevitable, Internet led secularization (individualism building "corruption") of the younger people, Pan-Islamism is still a tool to co-opt conservative Muslim groups.  [This option is also ridiculously optimistic pie in the sky given Turkish-Israeli-American cooperation for a long time preventing Turk-Persian cooperation and considering residual imperial influences from US, Russia, China, Europe, etc. and human nature. There is also the issue of secular reversals in the name of stability.]

2) Shrink as nation states and give up any efforts at securing imperial regional "depth" and growth in the vacuum created by absence of Anglo-American forces. This means allowing Kurdistan to exist in greater and more tangible form, parting with parts of territory, and allowing Chinese and/or Russians to become the new diplomatic mediators in the region. This option is a rather involuntary one forced upon Istanbul and Tehran by economic necessity, level of Kurdish resistance, and outside pressure. [In the end, giving up imperial pretensions may allow Persian and Turkish people to have dramatically higher standards of living IF this reduces violence in the region or conversely if reduction in level of violence makes giving up imperial pretensions/territorial control more palatable.]

In the end, Beijing and Moscow will be key players in deciding how Tehran and Istanbul acts towards the Kurds (and correspondingly, how Baghdad and Damascus acts). SCO nations do sufficient levels of business with both capitals and will be left to clean up Washington's mess for years to come (in 2009 I speculated about the Afghan war being an integrative welfare life support system for the obsolete NATO structure). Although Washington's attempts to destabilize the region (if they cannot control it) may create a temporary brain drain beneficial to the West, there should be enough brains left to create a more permanent and indigenous regional security structure and to neutralize Islamic radicalism from spreading (just as it was in 1990s following Soviet defeat in Afghanistan).

Poor Kurds. Or maybe in the future, Cool Kurds? (can't believe the analysis is ended like that)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Myers Briggs Personality and Evolution of Leadership

16 MBTI personality types roughly correspond to different breeds of self domesticated human primates. Humans evolved to travel and feel comfortable in packs of 150-250. How has leadership among them evolved to the present day and what does it mean for the future of democracy?

Recently, I rather optimistically touched upon how direct democratic structures can emerge in the 21st century. One article covered the concept of a "virtual polis" that political scientist Robert Dahl brainstormed will be possible once communication technology advances enough (he wrote in the late 1980s). This polis will allow a randomly drawn jury duty type community of people to co-legislate in political units regardless of how large the population of the unit is. The other article touched upon possible groupings of people (the concept of "rogue NGOs" and some rogue think tanks) which may help organize the first virtual polis experiments and provide the organizing cadres, human talent, funding, and technological infrastructure.

Now it is time to take a more cynical look and list a few key problems with democracy in general so we can approach direct democratic architecture construction with the right tools in the future. Democratization isn't going away and such well rounded discussion is especially key in very large unwieldy states like China and India. China will first democratize the 80 million plus ruling party apparatus before moving on to allow pluralism in the general population (there are more Christians living in China than in USA, so if another large opposition party ever arises its characteristics may appear rather surprising to outside Western observers). India will have to deal with democratization at the lowest level that it currently lacks (the world's so called biggest democracy currently resembles Britain in late 19th century in terms of democracy for elites only).

The first major problem of course is that although democracy of 1 man 1 vote may exist, it does not provide results due to incredibly disproportionate amount of resources available to these men and women. A good analogy is voting within a large corporation where 1 man 1 vote obviously fails due to different number of shares per shareholder.

The second problem directly relates to the first in that the disproportionate resources allow advanced propaganda techniques to sway the 20% of population that is very suggestible, 60% of population that is semi-suggestible, and even parts of the 20% of population that is relatively immune to suggestion. It doesn't help that 80% of population is psychologically prone to status quo mentality, making the programming task all the easier.

everybody got a cutesy nickname
These two will need to be tackled head on without too many radical arbitrary solutions (like only giving college graduates the right to vote as well as professions critical to societal functioning like teachers, soldiers, social workers, police, engineers, medical personnel, etc).

The third problem is biological and is root cause of the first problem and the topic of present article. Human herds have, are, and will continue to be led by coalitions of aggressive, novelty seeking alpha males/females who drag the rest of the population behind them. Let's take a brief look at evolution of these leadership dynamics.

In simpler pre-agricultural world, detail oriented sensory experience was a lot more important than intuition. There are even theories that modern tight communication between left and right side of the brain is a relatively recent thing. Hunter gatherers lived in the moment and the Myers Briggs personality that fits them best is ESTP. Besides fitting the modern role of a soldier, ESTPs fit into caveman/tribal world neatly:

1) Heavy parietal lobe dominance for rapidly grasping and understanding tool use

2) Heavy extraversion to go outwards towards the world of food, prey, and mates and to be energized through heavy social interaction.

3) Right hemisphere dominance to rapidly switch attention from one spot to another to look out for danger and food/mating opportunities.

We can relatively safely say this is the oldest breed among us. Even emotionality of ESFPs and ESFJs is a more recent development during transition to less aggressive and more providing mating selection. Early social leadership thus probably had ESTPs use bursts of energy (which today would unfortunately be labeled by some silly "disorder" such as bipolar, borderline, manic, hypomanic, etc). The ESTP would gesticulate to others excitedly and then be the first one of the pack into the jungle. Although this breed would be on the cutting edge of the pack, the actual day to day organizing, consolidating, and leading of the pack would fall to more left hemisphere dominant and organized ESTJs. Development of left hemisphere comes with age, strong alpha parental role modeling, and discipline. Although all human babies are born with very powerful right hemisphere perception (P of 100) to learn as much as possible, inevitably the pack splits into roughly 50/50 left and right dominance.

So the pre-agricultural situation had ESTPs serve as a sort of Lewis and Clark/Columbus explorers who provided leadership by exploring brand new terrain while ESTJs provided leadership by consolidating the newly discovered terrain and marshalling the human resources of the pack to settle in it.

When a number of primate packs joined forces to engage in large scale warfare, this usually occurred when a super alpha emerged from one of the packs who provided leadership to alphas of other packs. In theory one could have a pack consisting of 150-250 alpha male leaders temporarily led in an alliance. We see examples of such tribal gatherings well into the modern times. It is hard to say whether ESTJs or ESTPs provided the most super alphas due to the complexity of such an alliance. Although it is possible that left handed/ambidextrous primates existed even back then as a sort of "bridging leaders" between alphas with left and right brain dominance.

When agriculture made human societies complex and allowed large scale primate domestication and enslavement, intuition became increasingly super important. Thus the best warriors and hunters and consolidators remained ESTPs and ESTJs but further up the hierarchy, ENTPs and ENTJs took over the leadership role. Once again, ENTPs explored new terrain, only this time in the arena of primate domestication and infrastructure development. Once new theoretical ground was broken, ENTJs led others to consolidate and make use of it. Lets use the example of Lewis and Clark again, only this time in the role of ENTPs. Here's an illustration. In earlier "caveman times", ESTPs would lead the pack of men to a new river when chasing after an animal and begin to cross the river without waiting while ESTJs would stop and figure out a way for everybody to systematically cross that river and then return to the river later as needed. As society transitions to post-nomadic exploitation farming society, we see a long line of ESTJ consolidators (who would now send out ESTP brothers to the frontier to defend it rather than be led by them) gradually father more and more ENTJs and ENTPs. The ENTPs would go forth and get packs of alphas excited about building or constructing something new like a large irrigation canal, a tall wall, a dam, etc. Like Lewis and Clark they would often be the restless early settlers of a new area and marshal ESTPs to scout it, measure it, and then proceed to device schemes for new construction. The ENTJs and their ESTJ right hand men would then undertake the boring task to fully develop and build the area to its full potential, defend it, expand it, etc.

Around this time civilization becomes complex enough that some leisure time develops at leadership level and we start seeing more and more introverts appear on the scene.

You've guessed where this is headed.

21st century society is so complex now that previous leadership types (organized as loose, often openly antagonistic, alpha mafia clans if you look at it crudely) cannot fully run it anymore. Just as at some point we had an uneasy transition from ESTP explorer led packs to ENTP explorer led packs, INTPs are the best explorers of where society should be heading in terms of technology, interpersonal relations, etc. INTJs are the consolidators of their thought. Most macro level problems in the world today can be attributed to ENTJs remaining firmly in charge and INTPs being sidelined. At some point in the ancient world, ENTJs and ENTPs have figured out a way to allow ESTPs and ESTJs to remain as warrior figureheads (since detail orientation of parietal lobe makes their weapon ability second to none) while pulling the strings behind the scenes and then in the open. We're now reaching a point where INTPs and INTJs and various other introverts are doing the same to their extraverted excitable outward grasping primate cousins. Amount of introverts in the global herd has now risen to 30% in the Western world (along with rising corresponding propaganda!) and we even see stranger new breeds come on the scene every day. The whole autism phenomenon may be a new stage in evolution to navigate complex new technologies.

Intuition is a simple symbol manipulating system in the brain. Thus up to 6% of the herd today is often classified as "crazy" since ENTJs and ENTPs rapidly arrange data in new novel ways and then extrovertedly (and often excitedly!) act upon it. INTPs and INTJs have the same thing going on, only their lack acting on it makes them appear tame. At some point in the 21st century, INTPs will be able to become more extroverted using advanced pharmacology, genetics, cybernetics and then political power will swing in their favor for the first time. It will be an interesting development to watch as former ENTP explorers get publicly sidelined and outmaneuvered for the first time.

However, this transition will not be an easy one in a world of accelerating trends, when old timers hold on to their political posts for decades at a time in many parts of the world. Builders of direct democratic structures will have to take seriously into account biological inequality due to neural/brain diversity. As a starting point we will require a minimum of heavily modified proportional representation democracy as was suggested earlier to take into account biological herd pluralism. Then, every one of the 4 major Myers-Briggs groupings  (SJs, SPs, NFs, NTs) can have a political party where they will feel comfortable. Coalition can be forced upon proportional representation by constitutional limits on how much a party is represented in parliament (say a maximum ceiling of 40% representation always forcing a coalition government). There are many other tweaks that are possible. Even a sort of "psychological assembly line" is possible when it comes to crafting social policy in working groups by utilizing the talents of each breed.

Mind you, this is a starting point since even the party system has a host of its own problems as noted by one famous North African theorist:

"The existence of many parties intensifies the struggle for power, and this results in the neglect of any achievements for the people and of any socially beneficial plans. Such actions are presented as a justification to undermine the position of the ruling party so that an opposing party can replace it. The parties very seldom resort to arms in their struggle but, rather, denounce and denigrate the actions of each other. This is a battle which is inevitably waged at the expense of the higher, vital interests of the society. Some, if not all, of those higher interests will fall prey to the struggle for power between instruments of government, for the destruction of those interests supports the opposition in their argument against the ruling party or parties. In order to rule, the opposition party has to defeat the existing instrument of government."

We'll of course return to tackle the above issues. It may be time to start conceptualizing democracy as less of one giant hammer but a collection of scalpels working together.

Stumble Upon Toolbar