Ming the Mechanic:
Be afraid, be very afraid

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Be afraid, be very afraid2010-06-27 02:28
picture by Flemming Funch

The old civilization (human civilization in the last few thousand years) is pretty much based on the observation that humans, on the average, work badly together, but they can be controlled. Thus, history is the story of individuals, the lucky few who were in the right position to control others, and who knew how to do so. Alexander the Great couldn't have conquered much all by himself. His genius was in persuading 100s of thousands of soldiers to do what he said, to go and get killed so that he could be the dictator of a huge empire. Most memorable parts of history worked pretty much the same. Some guy used force and persuasion to make lots of people do what we wanted done, and the result became something impressive. Empires. Pyramids. Roman aqueducts. Greek temples.

Our society isn't much different today, other than that the control mechanisms have gotten much more clever and convoluted, and they've been camouflaged as democracy, free markets and free speech. What's different is that it is no longer the very visible kings or presidents who are in charge of very much. They go with the flow almost as much as everybody else. What hasn't changed is that it is the very, very few who control the majority of what's going on. But it is the vast majority that enable this to happen and that provide all the manpower. Despite that what they're getting isn't really working very well.

Western civilization - it would be a good idea, like Gandhi said. Democracy, that would be good idea too. Free markets would be an excellent thing to implement. We don't really have those, even though most people on the street would tell you that we do. They'd also tell you that money represents value, and that everybody has an equal opportunity, and one is free to say whatever one wants. All of which is a cartoonish propaganda reality which doesn't really exist anywhere on this planet.

However, the really good news is that all of it could change very, very quickly.

The thing is that we simply haven't worked out how to work together yet. The groups we're familiar with are simply collections of people who follow one leader, or a few leaders. Corporations. Governments. Religions. The News. We're talking about thousands or millions of people who voluntarily choose to do what a handful of people tell them to do. Usually towards their own ends, for their own gain, or simply based on their particular personal insanity.

Mind-boggling. Why do we do that?

Because collective intelligence hasn't worked for us so far.

You put a group of people together, most of the time, you'll end up with something more stupid than any of the individuals you put together. They'll argue, posture, waste time, and probably end up agreeing on something not very useful. But give them a leader, somebody who'll inspire them, give them a purpose, while making sure they get paid and fed, suddenly they'll all line up and do what they're told.

But imagine that a group of people actually suddenly could become more than the sum of its parts.

Imagine that the natural order of things would be that a group of people would self-organize in order to maximize their common interests. Imagine that together they'd accomplish more than simply the sum of their individual contributions, because of the synergy between then. They'd operate at a bigger order. Surprisingly clever and wonderful stuff would happen that none of them individually could have predicted, and that none of them directly caused.

That's called Collective Intelligence. That's when a group of people becomes smarter than any of them individually, and even smarter than them all together. It's a positive sum. 1 + 1 + 1 = 5.

That's not a wild-eyed fantasy. It is simply that humans haven't been very good at it so far. The result of that has been that 0.01% of the population control the other 99.99%, who do what they're told, and who're rewarded in some mediocre way for doing so.

Imagine that it changed one day. Maybe somebody came up with a tool that allowed people to actually work together. Maybe it just started happening by itself. Evolution. Suddenly we see win-win relationships around us.

Just like Alexander the Great by himself in his underwear wouldn't be worth much, and just like Adolf Hitler was just a little angry Austrian guy, part Jewish, mediocre painter, chronically constipated, most of the great leaders of civilization don't amount to much by themselves. Oh, some of them do. Some leaders would remain leaders even if we had a choice about it, because they're inspiring, because they're empowering and enabling catalysts who know how to make things happen.

But most of those very, very few who call the shots should probably be very afraid.

Because if we actually figured out how to work together, they'd be out of a job from one day to the next.

Elected leaders are only there because they've been elected. One little scandal, the truth coming out, will remove them from office in a couple of days. And nobody might vote for them next time.

Multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations are only in the position they are because people are buying their products, voluntarily, but without really knowing what's behind it, who's doing what, where these products come from, what the money is used for, etc. If they knew, they'd make different choices right away.

While we're scattered, disjoined, dispersed, unconnected, distracted and confused - we're not very effective.

We, the people, are the real power. If a million people agree on what is in our common interest, what's one anti-social asshole gonna do? Go hide? Unfortunately, today, that one guy is the CEO, and you could be laid off any day if you don't do what you're supposed to. But if we actually were talking with each other, he'd be the guy who'd be running for cover. Assuming he's one of those guys who got there by deceit and coercion.

There is one problem to solve. It is THE problem. How can we work together, towards our common interests, in a way that is constructive. In particular, how can we together solve complex problems that we wouldn't be able to solve individually.

It is called collective intelligence.

It isn't just some crazy left-wing idealist dream. It is probably the natural order of things. The universe works perfectly well. Stars are born, stars die. Evolution has gone on for billions of years. Billions of life forms coexist in great diversity and synergy. It is just us humans that for a few thousand years have gotten lost in the dark ages of mental and emotional separation. We found that we could think abstractly, invent stuff, communicate, organize, manipulate. That made us surprisingly productive and simultaneously surprisingly malleable and controllable.

Chances are that we don't remain dispersed for much longer. One way or another we'll figure out how to actually work together. Or we'll go extinct within the next couple of generations. Evolution happens when there's a bit of a crisis. Probably we'll change and we'll make it.

When we change, it will probably happen quickly. Because, really, it is not exactly about what any one of us are up to. Rather, when we find out that we can work together and the sum will be greater than the parts, there will be no way back.

That will be the Singularity.

When suddenly we no longer all are working against each other, allowing the few to manipulate us for their personal gain, when suddenly there is positive gain in all our collaborations. When suddenly humanity starts to feel smart and creative and constructive, rather than homicidal and suicidal. When humanity wakes up.

There are really only a few anti-social fucktards who'd even be against this. Most all of us want humanity to succeed. We want to be free. We want to make a difference. We want to be happy. Duh. Most people are good people.

If the truth is available, and easily communicated, and large groups of people can work together on common goals, big things can happen. It hasn't happened so far. It probably will soon. In part because technology is evolving rapidly. It will probably soon be impractical to keep us all apart.

Doesn't really matter if you're left wing or right wing or religious or scientific. There are a lot of artificial abstract ideas that separate us. But if we actually could talk about what we really care about, and work together on the solutions, nothing much would need to stop us.

Until we get there it is maybe a bit of a pain to try to work with others. Might be easier to either force somebody else to do it our way, or to follow somebody else's program.

But once we learn to actually network... the world will not be the same again. There probably won't be any way back.

So, if you're in the business of deceiving the many, for your own personal gain, be afraid. You'll need a new job soon. Something is emerging that you can't possibly compete with.

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27 Jun 2010 @ 05:02 by Harry Parshall @ : Collective social intelligence
Dr Bruce Lipton has suggested modeling our social systems on biological processes. He says the human body is a community of 50 trillion cells living in harmony. If we could figure out how to translate the same processes into human social interactions we could have a system that really works.  

27 Jun 2010 @ 08:04 by susannahbe : Nice writing!
I agree with Merlin, Ming, this is inspired and inspiring.

I can also see things changing through the communication opportunities provided by the internet and social networking sites like twitter, for the most part information can no longer be controlled which changes the power structure and gives autonomy back to the individual, now the task is to get him to take it!

A lot of the reason people don't want it, is that from childhood they have been programmed to follow rules, to be a good child and do as their parents/teachers/bosses/churches/governments say. They have cast themselves in the role of perpetual child needing guidance from an 'authority figure'.

To take back their individual power is a frightening thought and goes against all they have been trained to do, a training that involves producing well behaved citizins who conform to the rules and follow orders.

Even in these changes it will need free thinkers to challenge the status quo and lead the way.

Nice writing Ming.  

27 Jun 2010 @ 12:06 by ming : Connections
Without even getting into something very new, just better communication would make a big difference. Like Merlin suggests. Cops are harrassing somebody, everybody else knows about it right away, and can show up to help. Or, the other way around, there's actually a crime going on, and people who're close by can show up to help. As opposed to just filing a police report after the fact, because the police is too busy to come out for simple stuff like burglaries and stolen cars.

Or if information was organized and structured so as to tell us what we want to know about a company, an individual, a product. Lots of that is already on the net, but what if it was structured so as to be instantly available. I pick up a can in the supermarket, and I know right away the contents was produced by slave labor in Burma, what exactly those chemicals on the label are, who owns the operation, what else those people are doing, etc.

We have the opportunity to organize and communicate better than those who'd like us to stay dispersed. Even if they have police radio and files on every citizen.  

27 Jun 2010 @ 13:04 by ming : Stigmergy
Yes, {link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigmergy|Stigmergy} is probably a good thing to bring up in this context. We're not ants, so we need something of a higher order. But we do need something. Ways of more easily perceiving what is going on, what has gone on before, what is needed, what problems need to be solved, etc.

A lot of information is available about lots of stuff, including what is needed and wanted, what problems there are to solve, etc. But a lot of it is too "expensive" to get at to fully be useful at the right time.

An example I've used a few times: When I've read a book, I might be perfectly happy donating it to somebody else who'd like to read it. I know very well that there are websites for organizing that, but I'm not all that fanatic about it, so I don't bother doing anything about it. And it would probably involve sending the book in the mail to somebody in another city or country. What I'd like would be that I just easily enter the availability of my book into my local information system, and a few hours later, while I'm walking around town, it tells me that the guy who's sitting on the bench next to me would be really interested in my book. And, by the way, he has too many cherries on his cherry tree, and I love cherries. A sufficiently intelligent computer-assisted background stigmergy could facilitate a great many transactions like that. Many new types of actions are possible if they can be reduced from requiring a several hour Internet search to being an instant background awareness.  

27 Jun 2010 @ 16:04 by mortimer : Right on
Well said Ming.

I probably should update emotional art, its all about anchoring peace of mind, what I forgot to mention; you can get angry while anchoring peace of mind.

I"M ANGRY! and if you ain't angry about whats happening in the world today. Then I don't trust you.  

27 Jun 2010 @ 17:24 by mortimer : Toronto G20 Police

Posted June 26, 2010 - http://www.youtube.com/v/6h3nCoNvldk  

27 Jun 2010 @ 18:56 by mortimer : ACTA
Communication and the singularity! ACTA is probably a good thing to bring up in this context. Corp. U.S. wants free access to your PC - ACTA - Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - Secret International Treaty - Obama Style Transparency - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrRuuSlCCOc&feature=player_embedded  

30 Jun 2010 @ 12:47 by KB @ : Outstanding article
Thanks Ming - outstanding article. I am observing the Venus project with great interest as well - the meme has gone viral for sure, but will they be able to work effectively together?  

30 Jun 2010 @ 12:48 by KB @ : PS - Love the pic
Love the pic you chose to illustrate the article. Most anonymously apt! :)  

30 Jun 2010 @ 15:27 by ming : Venus Project
I admire the Venus project greatly, and believe in many of the same concepts for the design of societies. Except for that I'm not really sure that there's an answer there to how people will work together.

After having some longish phone conversations with Jacques Fresco (him talking, me listening), and being with him in an online discussion group (1995, part of NCN's early infrastructure, or the lack of it), I must admit that I don't hold out high hopes for that. It was a situation of putting several visionary geniuses together and finding some of them to be stubborn mules who wouldn't budge an inch from their ideal designs.

I asked Fresco: "But what if I don't want to live in a round house, like the ones you designed?" and it basically didn't compute. I got a long lecture about how it just is better to live in a house like that. That's a deal breaker right there. I need my power of choice.

It is important to have visions and artifacts. The Venus Project is fantastic for showing us how a better future might look.

But I think that the most important thing to solve is how we work better *together*. The collaboration, networking and collective intelligence part. Which in my mind implies that most everyone has a meaningful part to play, more meaningful than being a follower.

Everything else can be taken care of, if we just can work together in meaningful and productive ways.  

30 Jun 2010 @ 17:01 by ming : Surfers of the Apocalypse
Ha, I love it!

Excellent point about the propagation of truth. Truth on a variety of levels. There are of course the scenarios where one has been lied to, and now they real story comes out. Which will reorganize the landscape.

But there's also simply overcoming the messiness and unconnectedness of our communication methods and systems, to actually be able to distribute truths that people can work with. People use the same words to mean different things. Descriptions of events or of needs or of available resources might be missing or imprecise. We have lots of silly reasons for not quite telling the truth, other than ignorance. Social norms, politeness, shyness, not wanting to rock the boat, trying to make somebody else feel and look better.

If it actually becomes clear what is going on and what needs to be done, good decisions become much easier to take, and meaningful action can ensue. Exponentially more so in groups or networks. The many types of distortion of truth can quickly render them stupid and inefficient, if left to their own self-organizing devices. But if truth can be brought out in the open and efficiently shared, suddenly the opposite thing happens, and everybody can quickly do something meaningful about it.

Super insight!  

1 Jul 2010 @ 08:20 by KB @ : Truth and Society
Beautiful comment Arnie. And thanks, Flemming for the background on your past interactions with the founder of the Venus project.

One of the things I would like to see in new collaborative systems is a huge one - a princple - which is, an agreement and understanding that it is OK to be honest. At present it is not. Too much honestly scares people. I don't mean honesty that hurts others, but honesty, for example, if one made a mistake and messed up and said so. Generally I find people cringe, and change the subject to cover the awkward silence.

I would like to see a collaborative society where we do not have to wear a mask and pretend to be something we are not in order to be acceptable to the "social norm".

I want a society where it is safe to be honest.

From my perspective, collaborative systems cannot work unless that understanding is an integral part of it.  

5 Jul 2011 @ 12:14 by taranga @ : a possible answer
join avaaz and anyone in france or italy had better get a move on and add their names to the petitions to protect the internet from government censorship!

see http://www.avaaz.org/en/france_sauvons_internet/

and there are plenty of other very worthwhile campaigns - don't just watch - do something!  

1 Jul 2012 @ 12:46 by lyndaflora : Grassroots Organizning
Absolutely enjoyed your article, thank you.
This seems like a very good place to find the people I have been looking for and so I put it out there to you, all.
I am one of those that have given myself permission to use the power that I have. I have lived for quite a long time now and have learned a bit about my special area of interest. It is timely that this topic has come up because I have spent the last 12 years or so reaching out to others who would perhaps be operating on thier own power rather than "plugging in" to the system; which by the way has not been working you may have noticed. It amazes me that so many are dependent upon other people's programs and models for living. My area of interest is recreating community. Not virtual, but actual. Not unlike an Intentional Community but significantly different in a number of ways. I want to start Cocooning with a few brave souls who help me change the way in which we look at and deal with poverty, homelessness, the welfare system, educational needs, and life preparedness going into, living outside of but connected to, or coming back into the social system in America as we know it. Interested?  

29 Jan 2015 @ 05:58 by Bam @ : DWtXnBcKXg
The benchmarked does NOT prreofk and thus uses only one process. This functionality has only been added very recently to the trunk.I don’t really think it is an issue how a certain framework has been implemented. The end user only cares about the ease of use and its performance. Not wether the heavy lifting is being done by an external library (such as libevent) or an optimized inner loop.I agree with you that there is some inconsistency with the functionality of the different implementations. A more thorough test could make those irrelevant. Ie, instead of a single ping-pong make the respond to multiple ‘ping!’ requests by a single client, each fired with a certain interval.  

29 Jan 2015 @ 16:52 by Khachar @ : BpLyTmKxmPI
I got a lot of Indian friends here. Most of them think about money and ptregise, they have no love for other things. They're smart though, and so laid-back. Some of them, however, are unbelievably artsy and symbolic. But yeah, they're a rising Nation. In addition to Bollywood and Software Development, they've recently ventured into automobile (Tata Nano, the cheapest car in the world) as well. As for Americans, I don't know why they're called open-minded, liberal, and immoral. There's a lot of bigotry here, labeling, and prostitution is also illegal. I think people just watch too many movies. That's all.  

28 Apr 2016 @ 22:10 by Jonay @ : xiKUmnrMzRfC
Pues sí, Àngels, también está Krauss. Hoy ni Piniella ha aparecido por este antro. Es colisenrpbme, con buen tiempo es una hora todavía muy aprovechable para estar fuera.Bueno, pues ya llevas dos.  

3 May 2016 @ 17:26 by clash royale @ : clash royale
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21 May 2016 @ 05:19 by PHP Programming Assignment Help @ : PHP Programming Assignment Help
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