Working our way back from the cliff edge

“person standing near the cliff” by Ali Gooya on Unsplash

by Mike Meyer

It’s time to look at the American problem from a different perspective. This does not need an epiphany as we already have that happening with integrated paradigmatic changes driven by technology. But technology is not the problem. Deleting Facebook, unless you really want to is not an answer. Congress critters shouting at Google’s empty chair at a committee interrogation is of no help at all. That, of course, should not be a surprise.

People are the problem. Yes, I said this wasn’t any epiphany. It isn’t all of the people but only a percentage of them. We have roughly thirty percent of the population who are increasingly irrational in one way or another. This shouldn’t be a stunning discovery. Despite the best efforts of small minded politicians and others, very few people are all bad or crazy all of the time. We all know that but it doesn’t matter. A percentage of the population are born to be suckers for manipulation. High stress planet wide changes exacerbate these conditions.

Most of the time that’s not a big issue. In normal human communities everyone knows the people who go wild on some topic and the ones you would never ask for advice. In some cases these are people who just need to be kept occupied so they don’t bother people who are actually doing things.

Unfortunately we have become many and we can’t really handle the scale of our population now. On top of that things are very complex and that narrows the range of people who we can have some confidence that they won’t be suckered by the same old tricks. We even know the same old tricks because we are seeing it happen around us as a live action replay.

We all know this. I’m getting tired of saying it. Why can’t we solve the problem? We’re programmed to be very nervous about infringing on other people’s rights to think and do what they think is best. Yet that is precisely the problem. The people who can’t be trusted exhibit traditional characteristics of bigotry, stereotypical thinking, and authoritarianism.

The actual difficulty is giving these people, the wrong people, too much power. Yes, we have a full example of that currently sitting in the White House closely supported by a bevy of wingnuts in Congress. And more people of similar ill repute being appointed by the day. What do we do?

While I’ve been saying this in different ways for the last two years I think we need to start eliminating positions of power or greatly reducing the power of those positions. We take a real crap shoot in trying to put someone with any sense in these incredibly powerful positions and the best we can hope for is failure to do much. Get the wrong people in these positions and we get horror after horror with no options to stop the train wreck.

This is an old problem that, until now, we had no way to solve. It was totally dependent on the right people working their way into the system to be able to run for positions. But the reality now is that the right people don’t want those positions and don’t have time to spend years working their way through a series of snake pits constantly threatened with corruption.

In the old days the traditional conservative political position was to keep government small to maximize the freedom of the elite. That worked well for the elite but in traditionally racist, misogynistic, hierarchical societies that was an hereditary, racist, and bigoted elite that exploited all the others. The whole point of the republic/democratic government models of the 18th century was to correct this. It was improvement until it stopped working.

The problem is billions of people moving into urban lives that cannot work with small town councils and closely knit, homogenous populations. Density and diversity are completely outside the range of the old model democratic government. The US has successfully proven that repeatedly and, now, almost continuously as the systems fail.

A basic assumption was that most of government was small and local. The original American model was layered with federal government selected from state government that was selected through small town governments. This world is nothing like that at all.

We desperately need very large, planetary protection of rights and collaborative action on planetary scale problems. That is not to mention maintenance of truly open planetary trade with no barriers but protection of the weak and all those at risk from constant change. That has been a factor, although small, in the current spate of stupidity inspiring another tiresome round of wannabe fascists.

That problem of power is a big one. People with too much power either figure out how dangerous it is to wield that power, and so do as little as possible out of fear of doing terrible things, while those who aren’t that smart begin a program of conquest and destruction for their own benefit. If not from the start then very quickly as the power goes to their heads. It’s either one or the other. We need a new way.

My primary contention for some time is to rely on what we do well. People can design good administrative systems but have a hard time running them as power leads to and comes from corruption. We need administration and not politicians. I think that one day soon we will have AI/ML systems able to handle all human organizational administration. That is happening rapidly and will continue to accelerate.

The goals of this are not robot overlords but people working together augmented by more powerful data analysis systems making coherent suggestions. The algorithms needed must be based on detailed definitions of rights, responsibilities that are consistently reinforced. No favoritism, no corruption, no lies, and not bullshit. AI/ML systems do what they are told and they expand that learning only on the basis of the standards programmed into their algorithms.

On a personal and democratic level we can use the same large data and constant modeling to provide true direct democracy. We don’t need representatives when we have the technology to query every citizen. We have this already but it is not under our control and not used for our benefit but for the financial gain of the giant data warehouses that monitor us.

We can put major decisions to a direct vote. If people do not want to make the effort to understand the issues then they can select and AI/ML proxy that agrregates on all individual tracking data, analyzes the issues and makes a carefully considered suggestion on how to vote based on individual citizen’s model of their community, region, and planet. The citizen can accept the suggestion or even designate the AI system as their proxy for voting. You would have the only access to your proxies data, recommendation, and voting suggestions. Act on that or select your own choice.

But how do we transition to this world? By expanding administration based on universal rights and basic principles of market economics and democratic socialism. The principles and guidelines must be universal and planetary. The need for sustainability and maintenance of well being and happiness of all people is, I think, pretty easy to understand. We have come a long way to this over the last two hundred years and are approaching a planetary level of agreement of what this all means. The amazing thing is that we are closer to it than we think but the wrong people keep getting in the way,

The catch is large scale government run by greedy idiots or out of touch power brokers. We need to keep power way from these people but if we can’t do that (and we can’t yet) then we need to limit their power in any position. Political management should be local government based on urban areas and surrounding regions. The key is to eliminate large “nation states”. Those do nothing but cause trouble by putting vast military industrial complexes at the service of corrupted idiots.

The planetary scale comes from the rigidity of the broad universal rights and economic guidelines. With, in effect, the creation of city states as the basic political unit, we can maintain loose alliances for interregional cooperation. But all of these should be too small to do more than local damage. And the others could band together and cripple anyone who got too far out of line. Yes, this is a balance of power system at small power levels but administered as a planetary alliance of alliances.

Down the road, and this is a road that needs to be agreed upon, we simply recognize that it will be cheaper and better to slowly move to AI based administration with all operating decisions made on the basis of the agreed rights and principles. These rights and principles must be very difficult to reduce but easy to expand with full awareness that once they are expanded they become the equivalent of divine law.

The transition can be the movement of political control down to urban areas and the reduction of individual human political control that is larger than one metropolitan area. Our major urban regions are increasingly managed as separate entities and this is really only an expansion and commitment to that as the goal.

The first step for the US would be, not a full revision or breakup of the federal system, but the reduction in power of the executive branch. This is very hard and would be easier if the whole thing is broken up but that is very risky. Based on the Trump disaster and the increasingly open fear among the staff who have to work with Trump that the man is insane, incompetent, and incredibly dangerous. Getting rid of him could be an opportunity to seriously reduce the executive power while Congressional power is reduced by moving it down to the urban regions as the largest political entities.

But the first real change, that is beginning to be discussed already, would be the elimination of the Supreme Court. That is a power tool of the ruling elite that does nothing for the population, regions, and planet in general. The long history of attempts to ‘pack’ the court have grown into a criminal conspiracy under the current conditions. It is no longer a tool of civilization representing the weak and abused but a weapon in the continuous war to approve oppression.

The long road to change starts with an achievable change. The Supreme Court is defined in the Constitution but it does not need to be filled. The first step would be leaving the court at its current staffing and allowing it to atrophy as justices retire. It strikes me as being a fair approach to let the court wind down based on whomever is still standing but no more cases accepted when the count reached three.

There are roads to change that have become possible. I suspect that if we don’t take control of our own information someone else will and then we will have lost all control forever.

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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