Saturday, February 28, 2009

Game theory and the "Tragedy of the Commons" pt II

Some rambling thoughts.

Obviously, then this CO2 problem is going to be a tough nut to crack, and in the classic "Tragedy of the Commons" manner we are operating dangerously close to the "problem impossible to solve by technical means." Everyone at this moment has a vested survival interest in using the atmosphere as a  sewer. In fact, certainly, if you don't, you are severely penalized. My integrity in wanting to live a low impact lifestyle through the last decade caught me no end of grief and alienation--it ended freindships and relationships as well as opportunities. Jay thought flying off to Bali was unethical material consumption, and well, that wasn't fun enough for some and made others feel bad or stupid. Others in a more comfortable and flexible manner had different "feelings" about the matter and different "beliefs." I had a different understanding of the issues at hand. Still, we all recognized a looming problem that promised to be unsolvable.  All in all, however, as game theory dictates, the only way to win in such circumstances is by a radical redefinition of the game rules.  Most people instinctively understand this, but not how to do it, and this is part of why we have the muddled mess that we do.

One of the very great dangers I see among those who I know who share similar values to mine is a particularly insidious one. There is a tendency among many who are repulsed by the mainstream values, in any culture or in any time, to project that the mainstream values are destructive and will ultimately end to some sort of apocalyptic demise. Sure, the gods will avenge the "evildoers" in the end and disposessed people have always whined that. This is a very different attitude than a well informed and technically literate understanding of a given society's trends--although the predictions of dire consequences may sound very similar in most cases. Some people are worried about the next decade because of credit default swaps, some because of peak oil, some because jesus is on his way back or some such. Let me point out that while there is a certain camaradarie in such doomsday talk, each of these people will engage in a "radical redefinition" of the game rules in order to win in a different manner. Redefinitions predicated on erronious first principles are unlikely to be successful.

For myself, this has always been a central concern. Back in my late 20's I felt a great deal of pressing anxiety about the future and in what manner I was going to face it. I was in a position where I certainly could have taken that career path to some degree anyhow, but for technical reasons really felt that it would be a dead end at some point--at any rate I wasn't connected enough to every be very successful in that world--and finally made a very conscious choice to "radically redefine" my game rules in a manner that I felt I might win. That choice was the "extracultural" lifestyle of Seasteading and, all in all, it was a good choice. At any rate there was a great deal of deliberate purpose in the whole thing--I knew either choice would have grave consequences--as well if I were to go about either choice in a half-assed manner I'd certainly lose.

Driven to succeed? Not really. I'd say the central motivation I have that has carried me forward was the desire to understand. I wanted to know what I was talking about beyond a trivial level. I wanted to have reliable and technically applicable understanding of the world I lived in and the forces that shaped it. Understanding, I find, is always vastly more powerful in engendering action than casual belief. Far too many are comfortable with mere belief, and while they may have strong "feelings" about those beliefs, far too often there's a heavy air of "I can't be bothered with the details" attutude that floats around with it as well.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the issues we face at this moment are technical issues that require a technical understanding and technical solutions. Ideology and belief will not suffice to achieve anything. In fact, ideology and belief may well be powerful hinderences to accurately "redefining" the game rules. . .

So, then after that ramble--what will be "winning" and what will be the rules? What rules have radically changed?

I think a few things really may come to be understood with a higher level of resolution than in the past.

First-- "Feeling" states are very important. Passion is meaning.  Still, feeling leads to the  phenomenology of experience, not to comprehension. As well, affluence in general has a tendency to cheapen experience by making it far too accessible, and as such commonplace. I believe we will need to jealously guard our feeling states in this hard future in a manner to which many are unaccustomed--and adopting a deliberate integrity in our actions is the way to do so.

Second--Money will be a markedly less valuable and reliable tool for achieving those winning states--whether good times, or security, or companionship. Money has been pretty much the only tool in most people's toolshed for some time, and they're going to be pretty lost without it.


subgenius said...

Now that is a GREAT post.

One point I would add, though, is that feeling is a precursor to intellect. I once spent far too much time deep in research into AI, and as part of my attempt to understand what I saw as the subject I studied biological and neurological aspects of intelligence. One of the driving forces of me exiting AI was the wholesale ignorance of the importance of feelings and emotions in terms of their being building blocks of higher intellect.

In the recent past, emotions/feelings seem to have been pushed down in favor of raw intellect (note: Einstein used feelings to develop his work...). Now there seems to be a "new-agey" drive to re-examine their role in our existence, but this is (to my mind) is often more of a game played by wannabies than a true re-examination.

Numerous "mystical" cultures were much more involved with the whole emotion/feeling gamut, and it was often a considered a part of the process of developing true wisdom.

The Taoists had a LOT to say about this matter. In their opinion it was necessary to be able to cleanly and fully allow emotions and feelings to express, so that they would not create problems in the future, and one could continue one's development to a "true human".

Having met a number of individuals who have followed this strategy of personal development, I have noticed a striking qualitative difference between their emotional maturity and intellectual wisdom, and the qualities of those who claim to explore the same areas using the more current (imho psychobabble) approach.

Zachary Stowasser said...

I my "feelings" and intuition have been strong my whole life.. it has lead me to success when I would follow what felt good and what inspired me and made me happy. pretty simple, right?... I've found the law of attraction and the teachings of abraham to be very helpful recently in understanding what our emotions mean and how to use them as a guide - basically seek joy. Things I've intuitively known my whole life but now starting to analyze it and use it as a method for achieving my dreams and goals to make the most of this life and grow.

I also have a deep desire to understand how things work. to discover what are the rules of this game of life, and now I'm realizing that I have a choice in my lifestyle, that I do not have to live the way of my family and friends and society.

re-learning ancient cultures techniques for growing and preserving food and their lifestyles has been very comforting lately. Couple that wisdom with what we know today with science and what we will continue to discover as we understand ecology and use biomimicry and we have a recipe for evolution.