Raising the Average
By Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ December 8, 2020
Unfortunately, the bar of planetary well-being and species survival has been raised, and we need to make some serious adjustments for that. We are now playing Go but think we are playing checkers. The moves and pieces seem similar, but Go requires a far more complex strategy with an average of 150–250 legal moves per turn. Chess averages 37 possible moves per turn.
The failure to note that we are in a new game result in growing confusion until enough people recognize the change. While almost everyone can learn to play and win at checkers quickly and quickly learn to play Go, winning is another world. Sadly, while Homo sapiens has mastered living and dominating planet Earth up to now, we caused the rules to change to a new game that is much more complex.
This challenge presents itself in different ways. We are all good at basic survival and reproduction as we are programmed for evolutionary success. To build regional civilizations, empires, and world communication and trade systems require a portion of the population to learn new and complex skills. We’ve done that.
Most people find a way to live within these systems with skills adequate to live even in a predatory economic system with dominance hierarchies. We have figured out ways to maximize our average abilities to benefit our family, tribal, and national groups.
The majority of people don’t need to invent new technology or make large decisions beyond personal and family needs. But the requirements for that and resulting anxiety have been increasing for centuries.
Up to this century, despite population explosion, human exploitation, the rise and fall of empires, etc., most people could make survivable value judgments. That was the value of Athenian democracy and the modern Enlightenment argument echoing Plato’s Ship of Fools allegory.
The average of a large group was better than that of one person or a few authoritarians if they understood and listened to experts. Dictators and kings tend to be too proud to listen to experts, but ordinary people would be more pragmatic without a position to maintain. All democracies have since come to bad ends by forgetting the need for pragmatism in getting the most expert advice possible.
We have a better understanding of population averages with bell curves. With everyone contributing to the decision, the probability will be in line with the center, the highest part of that population's bell curve. This can go bad with enough incorrect information or intimidation of people. Still, in a normal situation, the assumption is that normal people will agree on a reasonable answer to a problem.
What we are looking at is the distribution of information and decision-making abilities for a given population. While in the mid 21st century, we are very aware that this is a perilous assumption. It was the basis for the Enlightenment ideal of representative government if the voting population was limited to the white, male property owners.
If the principle of human equality is used, then there should be no limits on citizenship, other than residency, and even that is dubious. We have attempted to expand both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to the entire population.
But faced with planetary hyperobjects, it appears we’ve lost the left-hand side of the ability curve as reliable problem solvers, which has added a negative number pulling the average down below survivability. If you are to raise the graduate success rate in a college, you need to improve teaching and focused interaction, but it’s more effective to be selective in your student base.
The other problem is in grouping students (people) by indicators of ability (however accurate), you leave the less capable in the dust and screw yourself collectively. Humans learn from peers more than teachers, and that is often based on competition. We’ve known all this for fifty years or more, at least as long as I’ve been in education. We still allow filtering by wealth and try to make up for it by financial aid to others.
Our concept of rights is that all voters are equal. Obviously not, but that is the principle. But that is not how it was planned. Not only did that not work, but the more we tried it, the greater the resistance from the people for who this was done. We are still in a disastrous election cycle that worked as it should be is being viciously and openly attacked by the losers.
Now we’ve screwed ourselves again because making no distinction on the ability to understand the issues and processes that must be managed means that many people are, technically, making decisions on representatives without either the information they need to know or any real idea of the ability and knowledge of the candidate.
If many voters are fooled by bad information and lying candidates, the voters look bad, increasing the arguments to suppress voting. Note that this is not a logical conclusion but can be presented as a solution to anxious and insecure people and ignorant of what is happening.
This is tangled and a multilevel problem. We educate the citizens and educate the candidates to be representatives or limit the vote to people with some level of logical understanding. But that negates equality and ignores potential.
This is the foundational reason that I think we will rely on AI as process management for public issues. People should be the final approval of AI processes, but bigotry cannot be allowed to overrule policies required for human well-being.
I don’t think human administration patterns are adequate to overcome prejudice, and provide the level of detail needed to understand the problems we face, let alone solve them.
How we administer ourselves at the planetary level for the greatest wellbeing is looking very much like another hyperobject.