Great Men and how they are upheld

Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.


According to Thomas Carlyle, “The History of the world is but the Biography of great men.” and the accepted histories certainly agree with him.

Since change does not and cannot come from the masses who conform and those who may initiate radical change are shunned by society, leadership of change is taken over by Great Men, demagogues who interpret the thoughts of radicals for their own benefit and steer society in the directions most suitable to them. Great Men are accepted by the majority as they are not actually radical or unusual. They are instead a glossy version of the average, just attractive and superior enough that they can lead but not so different that they would be unaccepted by the majority. Truly radical ideas cannot be directly accepted by the majority, they must be interpreted by knowledge bridges as must highly specialized innovation. Great Men have the education, understanding and access to appreciate and intercept new ideas and package them, or easily palatable pieces of them, in an attractive and widely accessible format. They also have the ability to suppress the ones dangerous to themselves.

Today’s Great Men (and occasionally women) are the politicians, Thought Leaders and CEOs and they are incessantly promoted by their own media as the source of all solutions for all of society. They still, through celebrity influence, financing monopoly and reciprocal promotion, drown out all other voices appealing for mass acceptance. They still are made up almost entirely of able, caucasian, educated men from privileged families. Whether they have achieved their self proclaimed superiority by birth, the 30 iq points above average intellect recommended to lead the masses or just the appearance of a Ken doll, these are the men and occasionally women who lead society. The state of society today is evidence of their complete lack of real qualifications.

The exceptionalism in social media coverage of this population is even greater than that shown by old media. Purchased followers and influence sharing complete the return to Aristotle’s age of demagogues. They demand and are awarded the main spotlight, relegating the commoners to the corps while berating them for being untermenschen, sheeple, or whatever the term of the day is. The dual spotlights on the majority and the Great Men blind anyone from seeing those in the shadows who must rely on the Great Men to deliver their messages.

These Thought Leaders are able to perceive, use and destroy radicals in their community and they are employed as the voice of the voiceless, standing between those outcast and the society which outcast them and acting not as bridges but as walls. A trade economy based on popularity brings a huge amount of power to celebrities. Few would disagree that the massive global audience given to Bono and Bill Gates, Craig Kielberger and Russell Brand is rightfully theirs. Even where their incompetence and lack of knowledge is proven they are commended for using their voices to bring awareness to issues. Pointing out that they deny a voice to those they are speaking for is considered ingratitude.

The endless speakers at endless TED talks, panels and forums, the motivational talk circuit, the powerful amplifiers and aggregators, all help create a new structure of control and access to power, far more easily manipulated and powerful than those in the past. While politicians had to acquire some level of knowledge and bear some responsibility for their advice, there is no such pressure on celebrities. Mia Farrow can declare that Blackwater is just what is needed in Darfur with no electoral consequences or accountability. Journalists win Oscars, Oscar winners are journalists and both have audiences at the highest level of governance. Africa has become the Hameau de la Reine for Hollywood and Silicon Valley where the wealthy now play at governance as Marie Antoinette once played at farming. Creation of political parties and reform lobbying at the highest levels are also the latest celebrity / tech industry pastime.

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Map from Mother Jones, Dr. Clooney, I Presume? An interactive map of the celebrity recolonization of Africa. — By Dave Gilson

The Great Men create a clearly defined caste system of who are the saviours and who are the saved and the gates to ever escaping assigned status are carefully guarded. Our right to communicate is usurped by those with the access to audience. Aggregators and amplifiers marginalize creators and those in need. NGO’s established to aid those most marginalized proclaim they are equal opportunity and inclusive employers and then demand PhD’s and elite work experience irrelevant to ability. Silicon valley awards ‘startups’ vast sums of money based on the founders matching the demographic of those already in power. Official blue checks of authority established by Twitter are awarded to US bloggers and random personalities and not to African heads of state. The obsession the powerful have against online anonymity is because they rely on identity to determine who they will engage with.

Great Men intercept knowledge between epistemic communities and the majority. Because they control the majority, they control the resources and they control the audience. They decide what information is dispersed through the media, what people are credited, and access to funding, development and research. The power of the Great Men is used against anyone outside the circle of obedient followers. These followers turn against any enemies of the Great Men and refuse to stand for the rights of their victims. Direct support or communication for those in the shadows, those with original ideas or in need of assistance, is blocked and the Great Men gain in followers, wealth and power by acting as gatekeepers.

Great Men interpret messages into easily digestible soundbites created to trigger acceptance or rejection by the mob. They rarely innovate and their knowledge is almost never at an elite level. As every field becomes more advanced this is increasingly true. Where once a Great Man could actually be the one with the best overall knowledge, it is now impossible. Knowledge at an elite level requires constant study, research, and association with those at the same level and cannot be readily explained to lay people without knowledge bridges. Thought which challenges established ideas cannot be expressed and accepted in an 18 minute TED talk to a lay audience as entertainment. Neither can solutions to the world’s problems be presented to screaming children at a WE day rock concert. The trivial solutions marketed are at best distracting attention and resources from real solutions, at worst they are harmful.

The Stratfor leak provided by whistleblower Jeremy Hammond showed how the ambitions of the Great Men are used against efforts to reform. Radical activists “want to change the system; have underlying socio/political motives’ and see multinational corporations as ‘inherently evil,’” explained Duchin. “These organizations do not trust the … federal, state and local governments to protect them and to safeguard the environment. They believe, rather, that individuals and local groups should have direct power over industry … I would categorize their principal aims … as social justice and political empowerment.”

The two easiest subtypes to join the corporate side of the fight are the “realists” and the “opportunists.” By definition, an “opportunist” takes the opportunity to side with the powerful for career gain, Duchin explained, and has skin in the game for “visibility, power [and] followers.”

It doesn’t matter to their followers whether the Great Men have any expertise or not. In the majority of the world that would rather examine personality than events or ideas, a complete lack of knowledge or credentials is seldom even questioned. If it is questioned the followers respond as though it was a personal attack on their Great Man, with comments such as ‘he is doing the best he can’ or similar. They do not question why he should be called upon to do so. When it is pointed out that there are other opinions vastly more qualified, the ability of a Great Man to lead the masses, to ‘raise awareness’ is presented. The unease most should feel at this barrier to real knowledge and this misplaced power is apparently overcome by a conviction that some day we will prop up a Ken doll who will do more than act like a Ken doll, despite the fact that that is the sole criteria that made him a Great Man in the first place.

A group of Great Men never simply follow and promote the best ideas. Ideas have owners and the fame and power of the Great Man is tied to the fame and marketing of his ideas. In common parlance, one does not simply endorse anarchy or libertarianism, one is an anarchist or libertarian. The person becomes the ideology. An anarchist must by definition oppose all ideas in opposition or evolution to anarchy or they would, by their own self-definition, cease to exist. This extreme association of people to ideas as well as the apparent need to adopt all facets of an ideology in order to become the associated person creates a rigid environment incapable of unemotionally examining, accepting and rejecting ideas on their own merits.

The Great Men seek to lead or control a group or an ideology. They don’t evolve well. They attempt to hold onto ideas long outdated and their energies are spent protecting their own positions from progress. Since mass acceptance, power, money and fame arrive at the peak of the acceptance bell curve it is unlikely Thought Leaders ever spent much time on the innovation end and they certainly don’t remain there. Once living ideas collapse into dead hyphenated ideologies, patents, copyrights and schools of thought, they are no longer responsive to the changing needs of their communities. Thought Leaders become Thought Owners.

Endorsements are passed around a clique of mutual citations, mutual promotion, and mutual financial and reputation increasing opportunities. Ideas are never radical enough to be in opposition to those whose approval is required to promote them. Great Men and their followers dominate reddit, Wikipedia and LinkedIn and reference each other on every topic. They run all the conferences and put each other on every panel, they control funding which they allocate to each other and they control boards they appoint each other to. If your authority comes from without circles of power it is unciteable. Instead of a true epistemic community of user promoted expertise and original thought, ideas are promoted from stagnant pools of academia, echo chambers of homogeneous thoughts citing each other into oblivion.

Knowledge comes from participation in the user group. Governance by those who have never been in the position of the governed is not going to be knowledgeable. Political science taught in the halls of Harvard instead of the streets and homes of those most dependent and vulnerable to bad governance was always going to be disastrous. Governance theory is never tested, there are no sandbox villages created to test different forms and monitor results. It is simply theory plucked from the echoes of dead white men and imposed arbitrarily on populations as ‘governance by the people’. This governance is not from the community being coerced by it. Women are not interested in politics, say the studies which define politics as male politicians and ignore the fact that women are the backbone of real action based governance the world over. Economists who have no knowledge of how the economy is practised, especially in those parts outside the trade economy which are not recognized to exist, and governance theory by those who have no knowledge of how people form dependent societies to survive is increasingly being ignored.

The slave morality of selfless brotherhood which begins revolution and teaches that egos should bow to the greater good quickly reverts to master morality when the Great Man is credited with everyone’s labour and uses it to entrench his power. While it must have once been gratifying to be a Great Man behind closed walls, or a Thought Leader on stage with a canned (and often stolen) speech, authority today is more and more required to present themselves to the mob on social media. A social media account with a 7 or 8 digit follower count and absolutely nothing intelligent to contribute is revealing. Neither is it any longer wise to steal content in public or take credit for the work of others. A few short years ago giant accounts were built from stolen content, as giant careers frequently are offline, but it is increasingly a source of general contempt. There are marauding bands of bored trolls and curious autodidacts on social media who seek out new sources of information and find out quickly enough if the best known account is not the source of any expertise.

The anger and frustration of many Great Men today, convinced of their own myth but unable to fulfill it, desperately citing each other as proof of their credentials but still unable to produce any interesting content, is something new. The transparency and individualism of social media is leaving those acclaimed as Great Men a few years ago appearing now as empty shells. It is becoming more apparent that tools like Klout measure popularity, not influence, and real influence happens long before the broad acceptance of popularity. The only thing sadder than being a Great Man with nothing to say is being a satellite of a Great Man who has nothing to say. The parasite economy of followers dining out on proximity to the Great Men who act as a personal army propping up a shell of unreasonable fame appear increasingly disillusioned with their role.

The Internet has enabled user groups to create resilient networks with paths to bypass the access control of Great Men. Those in need of assistance and those with ideas to be audited no longer need to be performing bears or be fronted by an acceptable proxy to be heard, a small group of amplifiers can bring their voices directly to a wider audience. No one online is trapped behind one gate of controlled access to an audience. While the wider public is still fascinated by Great Men and unwilling to hear voices from the shadows, those that do hear them are no longer willing to accept Great Men blocking access. Transparency has allowed the Great Men to be seen for the empty shells they are and allowed the right to communicate directly for all. With no ideas to steal and market as their own, the celebrity intercept class may no longer be motivated to promote ideas. Transparency may force dissemination from the source and Great Men may lose, if not their popularity, at least their influence.

Our only hope in creating a world without oligarchy, a world where expertise is used effectively and all voices are included is to stop reaching up to celebrity for power and start reaching down to the voices still being excluded. The voiceless all have their own voices, they just need a community that will let them be heard directly.

Carlyle, Thomas. On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, Fredrick A. Stokes & Brother, New York, 1888. p. 2.

White, male startup companies get funding for being white and male. February 10, 2010 Restructure!

Zur Genealogie der Moral, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887

Commoners and how they are coerced

Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.


Commoners, the middle class, the peasants, the workers, the lumpenproles, the rabble, the hoi polloi or as Nietzsche so kindly described them, the ‘superfluous ones’, by any name, every society must have a large segment that are either locked into or content to make up the stable majority. Most people are now commoners for the majority of their participation in society as no one has the time to be at an elite level of participation in more than one system and few have time or ability to be elite at any. Keeping this large segment roughly equivalent in all obvious measures was key to peace and solidarity. Where significant difference among them occurs there is a threat of what is recognized as deep societal division or civil war. These elements are always in place in society but they are only recognized as such when they occur among the common majority.

Keeping this group distracted or content was always essential, as seen by political appeals exclusively to the middle class, a monarchy’s concern for the mood of the peasantry or media’s focus solidly on the masses. If roused, this group becomes a mob and could destroy an entire society by force of numbers or at least would need extreme repressive force to contain them. At many times and places in history this group has been executed in large numbers as they resisted change. At other times they have managed to slow or even divert change by their opposition. When controlled, this group is used as a club to enforce the prevailing oligarchy and their interests and block any attempts at change. During ‘revolutions’ they can be swayed to follow a new demagogue and topple the existing one. This is not a group that ever initiates radical change. Commoners are the 99.99% that follow in any given system. They do not spend a great deal of time questioning the workings of society, they just get on with their lives within it. When change occurs they resist and are persuaded or resist and are crushed.

During times of peace, this group is the mutually cooperative and sharing society. Their world is built on an ease of communication, a presumption of equality. They are the most likely to be content members of society as it is designed for them and they are comfortable and included in it. They are able to work co-operatively and share commons property easily. They are seldom inclusive of any not equal to them and are coerced to believe anything not their equal is wrong. If they work in fields then field work is invariably presented as the most real or valuable work, if they aspire to work in other areas those are presented as most desirable, even labeled as the only ‘professions’. Work they don’t understand is considered lazy and self-indulgent. They provide stability by a coercive peer pressure on what society should consider normal. Although they usually resent being called average or common, their normalcy is presented to them as a virtue above any diversity.

A great deal of effort is spent in creating solidarity and removing diversity in this group, largely by instilling common goals and fears. A goal of aspiring to the ‘upper class’ motivates them to uphold the upper class and a fear of the outcasts motivates them to persecute the enemies of the current oligarchy. Although they are frequently called ‘the middle class’, commoners are not middle as much as they are separate. They live in a society designed for their own coercion. Laws, governance, education and media are all intended to influence this block of people to move in the direction they are pointed. Those called ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ classes are really just those outside the realm of this coercion and in many ways they have more in common with each other than they have in common with the coerced.

Busywork, stress and incessant seductive coercion from all societal institutions keeps this majority from looking outside the paradigm they are reacting within. They are taught to mistrust ‘the elite’ who have greater knowledge than them and the Dunning–Kruger effect allows them to deny greater ability in anyone. They are taught to despise the outcast and the myth of equality allows them to blame the outcast for their own persecution. They believe in the myth of their own independence and free will and believe they participate in their governance. As long as coercion is unrecognized, directing this majority has been simple. In Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott wrote of the difficulty an entity from Spaceland, which is aware of three dimensions, has in communicating with the king of Lineland who is only aware of a line. In a world where everything was set up to reinforce their conditioning, commoners were as certain of their reality as the king of Lineland.

The art of government is the organization of idolatry. The bureaucracy consists of functionaries; the aristocracy, of idols; the democracy, of idolaters. – George Bernard Shaw

The will of the majority creates and upholds oligarchy. Commoners have little real interest in governance, they only desire to be part of the spectacle of governance. They do not want revolution, they are happy with their messiahs and interfering to protect them can be as hazardous as interfering with domestic violence. Without this block of protective majority, oligarchies could never be created much less stand. A system which assumes that all people are equal is imposed on society to appeal to the conceit of the masses. Since people aren’t equal, a centripetal force will create oligarchy in every society set up with this principle. Governance structures did not create oligarchy in spite of democracy, they have slowed it as seen by the far faster and larger oligarchies created in the more purely egalitarian structures online. “The middle class have disappeared!” cry the middle class as they swarm to support ponzi schemes of celebrity, wealth and power.

“Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy,” wrote Robert Michels. “Who says organization, says oligarchy.” Faced with this frustrating reality and “the incompetence of the masses”, many reformers will eventually turn, like Michels, to fascism to implement what they see as ‘the greater good’. The fact that no dictatorship is possible without the support of the democratic will proves his point.

Whether the government is openly fascist or not, the masses are openly manipulated. From the coercing of public opinion in the lead up to the US attack on Iraq to the current astroturfing, TED talks, Thought Leaders and the WE Day phenomenon there is a climate of secular evangelical frenzy we haven’t witnessed since the last widespread rise in fascism. The escalating coercive force applied on those designated as commoners is a reaction to their increasing tendency to disperse and follow divergent paths and interests. The crack in the monopoly on education and media has created a surge of independent thought which may finally dissolve the club of cohesive democratic power which has kept Great Men in power for centuries. With no middle class there will be no oligarchy.

The masses are not and have never been as apathetic as their reputation depicts them. They are otherwise engaged or their interests lie elsewhere. The idea that everyone ought to be fascinated by and highly informed regarding governance systems is ridiculous, especially as the puppet show on display has little or nothing to do with our real governance. As long as governance is peer-promoted, transparent, permeable and easily challenged there is no need to force people to have interests other than those they choose. There are plenty of people who are interested in governance that can sound an alarm to the broader public in cases of concern and plenty of people interested enough to keep an eye on the workings.

If each system was managed by a permeable and transparent concentric circle everyone could follow their own interests and acquire their expertise where they chose instead of making part of an uninformed mass set up to provide power to an oligarchy. Real involvement does not come from listening to advertising and making a necessarily uninformed choice to legitimize a dictatorship with consent. Governance should come from all participants in a system under advice from peer promoted epistemic communities open to all. Epistemic communities should be under no obligation to speak directly to the masses or earn support from the entirety of an uninformed public. Their work should be audited and transmitted by those users with the interest in doing so to those users with an interest in learning about it.

The purpose of a cohesive block of commoners has always been to use them as a weapon in support of oligarchy. The diffusion of the middle class into autonomous individuals removes the weapon. The full participation of all in their systems of interest enables self-governance and removes the need for governance by oligarchy. We need neither democracy nor fascism. The iron law of oligarchy can be disproved by replacing a system of votes with collaboration.

“Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” Kruger, Justin; David Dunning (1999). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Maxims for Revolutionists (1903) – George Bernard Shaw

Flatland: A romance of many dimensions (1884) – Edwin Abbott Abbott

Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie; Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens (1911) – Robert Michels

Autonomy, Diversity, Society

Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.


Our most overwhelming impulse as humans is to belong to a society. The pain of shunning is the most powerful coercive tool we employ against each other. Shunning can motivate people to take their own lives or the lives of others. Solitary confinement can rapidly destroy mental health. An infant left without human contact can have all of their physical needs met and still grow up with physical and mental damage. The need to belong can be used to overpower principles, deep rooted morals and self-interest. History has repeatedly proven that the majority of people can be coerced to do anything to themselves or others by the need for social inclusion. The desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves is frequently expressed as a motivation for action and duty to society a frequent excuse for compliance.

Most people are born with ambition to reach their own full potential in the areas which interest them. Autonomy, the ability to choose ideas and society for ourselves and the ability to spend our lives in the way that seems best to us is a basic human need. A society which locks people in or out due to location of birth or ethnicity and roles which are presented as the only acceptable paths require rigid conformity which does not suit our characters and will cause rebellion. Accepted diversity is not just morally just or strategically wise, it is also necessary for a complete society to fulfill all the roles required or desired.

An overriding theme in social structures in recent centuries has been equality as an ideal. Once questioned and frequently refuted, it is now accepted almost universally, dominating political movements, political theory, and all of society’s institutions as a Holy Grail which, once achieved, will assure the better world which has so consistently eluded us. Whenever social change is attempted, the ghost of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité comes back to drown out all other conversation. Debates on equality as a realistic goal have typically fueled attempts at eugenics, not tolerance, since societal acceptance is hinged on equality. What and who we are all supposed to be equal to is the majority, an idea enforced by democracy. Our goals are to match those of the powerful, enabling them to excel ahead of everyone and become more powerful. Liberty and equality are for the accepted fraternity, not anyone outside their sphere.

We do not feel a sense of belonging when society demands we meet an unattainable ideal. The confidence of social inclusion required to risk relationships with other people by opposing majority will is a privilege of those accepted. Those not respected as autonomous individuals with equal rights but accepted on sufferance and with their needs unmet and unconsidered will forever be an unstable fringe. A society which demands unattainable results from a few of its members is inviting rebellion and discord not only from those excluded but also from those taught to exclude.

The quest for equality is futile and prevents development of a real society. It is the reason we have never achieved tolerance, a working system of collaboration or equivalence for all. It has denied us recognition and appreciation of the power of diversity. Survival under such a system demands conformity which restricts social progress to a crippling degree and denies basic rights of autonomy and personal fulfillment. It silences radical ideas which may bring change of great benefit to all. It ignores observable reality and the real requirements of a social structure with infants, elderly and diversity of all kinds. Those projecting from the mold will be driven into wretchedness for no reason except their failure to attain an impossible and artificial goal.

The concept of equality has been used to create a trade economy which insists that all have a universally equal ability to trade. The only work valued and the only ownership recognized is that of those in power and the only acceptable goals are those that benefit the powerful. Instead of a real society which works for the benefit of all members, we have created society as a corporation where all work to benefit the self-appointed shareholders. This trade economy has been extremely successful in justifying and continuing hierarchical rule and unbalanced privilege. In every tyranny there must be a rational justification of it. The divine right of kings was usually successful in protecting a monarch’s head as few wished to act against god’s will. A secular age must appeal to the sense of fairness which most people are born with. The idea that this one group of people are more worthy as they are used as a measure of worthiness must be instilled and reinforced constantly, as it is. The only reason equality in a trade economy is considered a virtue is to allow rule by right of virtue for the fraternity, the libertarian ideal of meritocracy.

In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft stated the root flaw in every governance algorithm used in the past or present, “Where there is justice there is no need for charity.” Her view has been overlooked by all and the image of a just society is consistently one which has evolved to be charitable. There have been societies that were ruled by equivalence regardless of ability or role but they were always few, and since the notion of equality under a trade economy became widely lauded as both an ideal and a truism they exist almost nowhere. The equality mantra is the worm at the root of all trade economy systems today and any trade economy based on an ideal of equality will produce the same result, as we have seen. Equivalence comes from an economic system in which an infant or other dependencies have an inherent right to be included without reliance on charity. Equivalence would value work which benefits the poor or a few equally to that which benefits the powerful or the majority.

We once had a chance to overthrow our feudalist structures and achieve autonomy, diversity and society. Many societies of interwoven dependencies worldwide had the potential to evolve and allow both autonomy and society for all. Capitalists used the principle of equality to create inequality, a caste system where everyone must strive for the same goals and all but the few setting the goals would fail. The current goals of knowledge based capitalism, with knowledge as a product of wealth, leisure and access, continues the progression. Silicon valley, the financial and commodity industries fill no need of greater society, they exist to create a new corporate ruling class overseeing a new age of corporate empire. What little they produce is in service of empire, not greater society. The technology industries have created a global governance system for the five eyes and other intelligence services. The financial and commodity industries are set up to rob resources and enslave the rightful owners.

The trade economy has denied the value of any work benefiting those in need of assistance and denied the value of resources in non-western countries. Both caregivers and the entire continent of Africa are depicted as being in a state of perpetual begging for handouts from the wealthy despite the obvious fact that no one needs the wealthy and everyone needs caregivers and resources. The same power that once denied ownership by the commons with the homesteading principle now denies the rights of homesteaders in favour of foreign multi-national corporations. Liberty can no longer be attained without society because society has grown too complex. Those who claim liberty with no obligation to society endorse rule by mafia and act as parasites on society.

Laws are stratified to ensure the powerful have superior versions of everything, including immigration rights at a time when much of the world will need refugee status from drought, pollution, conflict and natural disasters. Even natural life expectancy is unapologetically higher for the chosen strata. The world is being funnelled through a eugenics program of a previously unimagined scale.

This callous and deliberate exclusion of most of society, even for moral nihilists, is ignorant and ill-judged. Our only hope of a livable future is in a singularity produced not from technology created by a population of self-appointed Übermenschen but from the collaborative creativity of all of the diverse minds in the world. Where very recently a qualified tradesman could, and was expected to, understand everything related to their field, it is now increasingly difficult for one human brain to comprehend the overall workings of any complete system much less the interlocking detail of every system globally. Given the required tools and societal structure, we could create a resilient collaborative network that could act as a real hive mind, that could audit, bridge and develop complex original thought and create solutions with the speed required.

Every revolution in history has simply installed new faces on top of the same paradigm. Societies ruled by the majority create oligarchies of Great Men, those two standard deviations above the mean in every field, just advanced enough to impress and not advanced enough to baffle, always from the tiny demographic group accepted as rulers. The voices and ideas outside the circle of demagogues, the ones that need and drive revolution in every case, sink back into oblivion. It is evident that if we are to stop the endless cycles of revolution, or even survive another cycle, we will have to change the paradigm. The current corporate empire is eager to install the latest messiahs who will promise reform which will retreat to moderation and then back to the status quo or worse. As we can already see, this population is once more leading us past democracy and back to the deeper prison of fascism. This time it is essential that we go deeper and create a genuinely new system, not just new messiahs and new names for old tricks.

Free will and seductive coercion

Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.


Governance is a force directing actions taken by society. We began governance with small tribes arranging relationships and personal assets between themselves and authority only required to settle disputes. As populations grew, we moved to a variety of government systems with full hierarchies, official authorities and hard coercive force in the form of official military and police. Lately we have moved far beyond these forms to all pervasive and largely invisible soft coercion. While large populations have always been coerced more by propaganda than by armies, the techniques developed by global intelligence and marketing research of the past several decades have escalated this to global coercion controlled by a very few people. Unlike the churches and governments in the past, the new hierarchy controlling this coercion is invisible.

Democracy is a puppet show set up to distract attention from the real governance. Democracy and local governments provide a curtain between the true coercive power and the rest of the people. A politician or ruler is placed on stage and people are made to feel they participate in the show by voting for or against and occasionally throwing shoes at or assassinating them. Then the people leave the theatre and go to the streets where they are the targets of an increasingly oppressive war of coercion by those battling for control of the real governance. It was once possible to monitor our governance. Now we are locked in an ideological maze with walls of democracy preventing us from seeing or participating in the true structures of power and debate.

Voting, even in the case of referendums, is a controlled binary input into a preordained structure and question. It is always a front to reinforce the underlying propaganda. ‘Would you like to be ruled by person A or person B?’ is a propaganda exercise and advertising blitz promoting the idea that democracy is good and the voters are in control. In this structure, ‘none of the above’ is never an easy option and doing away with democracy is not an allowable choice at all. The voters are locked out of any control over the coercive propaganda that forms our real governance by a lack of access to information or the time and funding required to participate. Influencing votes by coercion is illegal in democracies but the United States spent $6,285,557,223 in the 2012 election on seductive coercion proven to be more effective than any violence in influencing outcomes. Despite the obvious and proven effectiveness of this coercion, its effectiveness is denied by the very propaganda which is spending billions on it.

Individual self-governance

The most important lie those currently in power had to convince the majority of, was that they had free will and individual self governance was possible, that they lived free of coercion. It is not possible to live free of coercion. It was not possible even when we were in small tribes as the need to belong, past experience and uncountable other factors influence every decision. The amount of value judgements our minds are called upon to make every day would be impossible without myriad cognitive shortcuts triggering preconceived judgements or by adopting those judgements held by our peers.

All slides from the NSA as posted on the Intercept.

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Instead of religious propaganda reinforcing slave morality and obedience as in the past, master morality and free will are now promoted for all along with the delusion that all have the ability to become masters in the current ponzi scheme of power. The myths of equality and individual free will have convinced the public that all are responsible for their own actions as long as they attain a minimum level of competence. That premise is as unfair as it would be to hold someone responsible who had not attained that minimum. It is the knowledge differential between those presenting information and those receiving it that matters. People are persuaded that their government or those deployed in the military are not responsible for actions dictated from above, but the masses which are subject to even greater secretive coercion and lack of alternative choice are.

Since all are declared to have free will and equal ability, this man is fully responsible for his actions and the media and politicians who placed him opposite his designated opponent and incessantly harassed him with a barrage of highly targeted coercion and false information bear no responsibility. These two brains are equal under the law and the one with fetal alcohol syndrome fills prisons everywhere because they are held to the same level of responsibility as the other.

Presumption of equality has ensured enslavement of many to the whims of a few.

Societal auto-coercion

Language itself is highly coercive. Each word is a cognitive shortcut to a wide array of emotions and value judgements, so by a simple redefining sleight of hand people can be manipulated into agreeing with ideas they would normally reject. War is billed as peace, police states are billed as freedom, children are billed as terrorists. Few people have made the value judgements they use to assess information on their own and again, no one has the time and very few have the ability to do so all the time. Most base their judgements on emotive responses to words they have been taught to revere or revile by environmental conditioning through social circles, media or education. Reconditioning by radical groups adjusts emotional responses but still seldom results in change of more than a few principles.

People are presented with ideas, events and personalities which are calculated to trigger binary moral judgements. With the amount of judgements we all have to make every day, no one has time for continual nuance and examination of everything. Information is presented by those who have taken time and care to deliver a specific message and narrow the field of options to make the choice obvious. An overload of topics of advanced complexity, presented with ever-increasing speed, has resulted in people permitting themselves to be governed by memes and slogans.

The use of memes to evoke entire bodies of knowledge or memory is not unique to the Internet, it has been used in storytelling cultures everywhere. The difference today is the story tellers are not of and from the communities they are controlling.

Control of the Internet is control of the dialogue which is directing and coercing behaviour worldwide.


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Hostile seductive coercion

We have spent decades watching as governments, particularly those under direction of the five eyes, have experimented with brainwashing and coercion techniques. From brainwashing Canadian women with postnatal depression and secretly drugging US citizens in 1950’s and 60’s, they have gone to the advanced torture and coercion techniques we see today. China’s Thought Reform Movement in 1951 was an unusually open example of the coercion practised by all governments to greater or lesser effect. The advertising industry also has invested billions into research to understand motivation and desire, stimulus and response. Non-stop propaganda from media, video games and social programs combines with game theory incorporated increasingly everywhere. All of this research, the vast reach of all forms of media, and the complete corporate control of all essential resources have combined until today we are very near governance by thought control, complete with imprisonment for thought crimes and criminalization of information counter to governing propaganda.

The vast growth in intelligence communities worldwide is not triggered by a desire to spy on our selfies for any government. The intelligence communities are the government.


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The portions of the leaked NSA documents that the public have been permitted to see show how people worldwide are being governed and in whose interests. Intelligence efforts are directed at coercing your behaviour and response in service to corporate interests. The people preventing you from reading the NSA documents (and every other intelligence document) are preventing you from having any understanding of your own governance.

According to the few PowerPoint slides we have been permitted to see, the UK’s GCHQ study Social Engineering, Digital Tells, Disruption, Strategic Influence, Scams and Deception. Their slides ask Can SIGDEV help us understand and shape the Human Terrain? and describe Having an impact in the real world with Complete Network Information Operations: Propaganda, deception, mass messaging, pushing stories, alias development, psychology. They specify looking for Social not technological solutions and teach “Using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world.” No, these techniques were not used against just ‘the enemy’ whoever that may be.

Thanks to whistleblower Jeremy Hammond we also have insight into the activities used against activists from another source, the intelligence firm Stratfor. Stratfor recommended the following methods for dismantling any group interested in participating in their own governance. Taking advantage of the personality based interests of the majority, ideas are silenced by attacking their source. As described by Steve Horn in Popular Resistance:

Divide activists into four groups: Radicals, Idealists, Realists and Opportunists. The Opportunists are in it for themselves and can be pulled away for their own self-interest. The Realists can be convinced that transformative change is not possible and we must settle for what is possible.  Idealists can be convinced they have the facts wrong and pulled to the Realist camp.  Radicals, who see the system as corrupt and needing transformation, need to be isolated and discredited, using false charges to assassinate their character is a common tactic. …

“If your industry can successfully bring about these relationships, the credibility of the radicals will be lost and opportunists can be counted on to share in the final policy solution,” Duchin outlined in closing his speech. “What Stratfor produces is the information economy’s equivalent of guns: knowledge about the world that can change the world, quickly and irrevocably.”

“The Pagan/MBD/Stratfor operatives are much more sophisticated about social change than the activists they oppose, they have limitless resources at their disposal, and their goal is relatively simple: make sure that ultimately the activists fail to win fundamental reforms,” he said. “Duchin and Mongoven were ruthless, and I think they were often amused by the naivete, egotism, antics and failures of activists they routinely fooled and defeated. Ultimately, this is war, and the best warriors will win.”

Those not swayed solely by personalities are coerced by events, selected by media and others in power to create an emotional response which will steer public opinion in the direction they wish. For those few who look beyond personalities and events, messages can be easily co-opted by isolating certain ideas out of context. Particularly any idea which challenges deeply held convictions and would require concentrated thought is easily deflected by distracting noise and triggering fear responses.

The manipulation is not restricted to coercing opinions online as we have seen from the many cases of incitement to criminal action by intelligence services. Participation in military horrors and even genocide are also coerced by media packaged for that purpose by groups such as the 969 movement in Myanmar. Wars are now being fought around the world with no declaration or admission of war, controlled solely by fear, propaganda and denial. Wars are declared against enemies no one can truly define as we have seen with shadowy backers behind groups such as the M23 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, various Syria militias and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Billion dollar multi-national industries such as human trafficking are kept entirely out of the spotlight by diverting interest.

The battle for hearts and minds is not just real, it is the only battle that matters, the battle from which all others emanate.

The originators of information should not be held responsible for the unforeseen actions of those below a level of understanding the original information. The manipulators of information that bring it to the wider public are those that direct acceptance and rejection. These coercive agents deflect blame by claiming they have a right to free speech and all of those following their message have free will and should be responsible for their own actions. This deflected responsibility is insisted on despite all evidence of the power of coercion which the top research efforts in the world have developed over many decades.

The path from information to understanding by the wider public is the true hub of governance. Without transparent epistemic communities and an engaged public providing knowledge bridges, this path is vulnerable to interception and manipulation by anyone who wishes to control the masses. Fear, ignorance and sectarian divide are used to make the path from knowledge to acceptance impossible for anyone without celebrity amplification and power. The manipulated masses are coerced to mistrust and attack the sources of information those in power want silenced or anyone attempting to bypass the established manipulators. Efforts to change governance are diverted to attacking the puppet shows of politicians rather than establishing paths from knowledge to mass acceptance.

To remove the current hostile governance, we must dismantle the individualist ponzi structures that create motivation for it.


Societal singularity

For years we have been warned of, or promised, a technological singularity, a time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence and begin progressing beyond a point of human comprehension. Instead, we have reached a societal singularity. Our society is already far too complex and requires far too much information processing for individual understanding. It is not artificial intelligence we need, it is a workable form of societal collaboration. Mass collaboration is necessary to understand any of the forces controlling us or to be able to rationally govern ourselves.

Of all the movements attempting to counter government and corporate action, intelligence leaks and releases show none are more feared than the ones the governments prefix with ‘cyber’. The public can be led in circles with laughable ease by whoever controls the dialogue and the only uncontrolled dialogue is on the Internet. The efforts to co-opt it, dilute it, discredit it and divert it have been overwhelming. Interrupting Internet collaboration is interrupting collaborative self-governance, the only real threat to the hostile governance currently in place. Societal auto-coercion, a transparent, consensual coercion a society applies onto itself, can potentially compete with state and corporate coercion in a responsive and immediate environment like the Internet.

The possibility of societal self-governance is still very small and is being overwhelmed by restrictions on access, spying, arrests, laws to discourage participation and most of all, a lack of independent decentralized tools for long term governance. An unending meme war is ridiculous and unwinnable. Self governance requires deep knowledge and knowledge bridges emanating from constantly audited and updated cores of information. Quick information and action must flow naturally and transparently from these cores, not just appear as confusing dissociated static. Information must be informed and audited by those on the ground, not as manufactured Kony 2012 type activist product.

Self governance by individuals is impossible in practice. There is too much information for any one person to act at all times without connection to an informed community. Communal auto-coercion or societal self-governance will need transparent, permeable epistemic communities with knowledge bridges to audit and simplify their messages. Without the ability to trust in transparent collective knowledge, people will be discouraged from taking any action at all. A lack of these knowledge repositories leaves fertile ground for viral hidden and uncontrollable coercion.

Humans are the most programmable systems on earth. We were all programmed and we can all be reprogrammed. Our programming is our governance.

This article has been stigmergicly translated into FrenchSpanish and Bulgarian

The average tyrant

Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.


For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself… as to the faculties of the mind, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. – Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal – United States Declaration of Independence

The obviously false statements above have been used to design a social structure that does not and will never meet the needs of a real society. The average is held up as not only an attainable goal but also an ideal and the very existence of anything above or below average is frequently denied, especially in the design of social structures. Anything more than two standard deviations from the mean is considered either substandard or elite and great societal energy is expended in trying to merge both of these back into the centre of the bell curve. Those that cannot be merged are ostracized or treated as parasites.

The majority of society has seen nothing amiss with tying success and happiness to academic excellence, in complete knowledge that this will ensure a life of misery and failure for those unable to attain a neurotypical standard. It has been a comedy to see the same middle class who complacently watched the subjection of generations of the bottom 1% roar with indignation when they find themselves slipping to that level. We are the 99%! is the neatest summation of the tyranny of the bell curve imaginable. Mass protests occurred in 2011 not because economic disparity affecting basic human rights is occurring but because it is now happening to average people, the chosen ones. The instant cry for direct democracy was meant not to ensure human rights for all but to ensure the majority will once again dominate.

The continuing mistreatment of the less able is today’s version of eugenics. Every politician appeals to the middle class. If they intend to favour the economic top 1% they must convince the middle class it will eventually benefit them. No politician campaigns on promises to the bottom 1% where human rights disappear first. The 99% are finally suffering some of what they allowed to happen to the bottom 1% all these years. The bottom 1% has always filled jails and been denied basic essentials and the opportunity to achieve their potential and pursue happiness. The majority are only horrified when they start going as well.

All people are equivalent. All people are not equal. This is our strength not a weakness. The lie that all people are equal has been used to deny people the right to be equivalent.

There is nothing in one level of ability that makes it inherently better than another. It is the artificial valuation of jobs and the pressure for all to match the peak of the bell curve and attain the same goals that makes average competence seem an unquestionable virtue. The myth of a straight line of competence is also false. A person lower in a general cognition spectrum can still be higher in one system than a specialist from another system. Interest can drive a person to a level of higher expertise than someone with greater ability. Success in many areas requires no extraordinary ability. Many abilities such as perceptiveness, ability to communicate and obsessive attention to detail can provide great value to projects as can insight from diverse backgrounds.

If society refuses to acknowledge that some people are more capable in some areas than average, children are raised with no alternative than to perceive others as either willfully ignorant or frauds. If everyone thinks there is a level playing field, they play flat out and some get hurt and angry. If they think everyone is equal, those who achieve more must have cheated in some way or are lying and those who achieve less must not be trying hard enough. Anger, frustration and division must result from forced equality and holding that which is natural for one to be the ultimate standard of achievement for all.

Bullying by the average is easy as communication and empathy beyond two standard deviations of cognitive ability is difficult, exhausting and slow. Those outside the majority cannot discuss the communication difficulties. Anyone below average is given advice on how to become average, anyone openly above is hated and shunned. Knowledge bridges are needed for communication in both cases and in both cases those bridging will be loved and celebrated while those trying to communicate will still be despised. Their voices will be controlled by others and their links to broader society will be at the whim of those providing communication bridges.

Cognitive ability

Being outside the normative range of physical ability or beauty will bring hostility but not to nearly the same degree as being outside the normative range of cognitive ability. This may be because even though all can be tied to economic success, the range in cognitive ability is far greater and more diverse. While a top athlete’s achievements may be unattainable by the majority of the population they are at least able to comprehend them.

Normal is equated with ideal, abnormal is in some way defective or in need of a cure. It was not until recently that those who deviated from the neurotypical by any great degree in either direction were even considered the same species as neurotypical humans. This attitude can still be seen today as failure is said to make a person more human and more deserving of human respect and empathy.

As recently as 1920 Leta Hollingworth had to ask Are the defective a separate species? … It Was Formerly Assumed as a Matter of Course that the Feeble-Minded Belonged to a Distinct Mental Species. Herbart’s theory advanced so long ago, that the feeble-minded form simply the opposite extreme from genius, and differ from the normal only in degree, made relatively little impression upon current thought. It was supposed generally that the feebleminded were divided from the normal by a sharp line of demarcation, on the one side of which stood all who were not feeble-minded, while on the other side stood all who were so afflicted, — the so-called idiots. According to this view, there was also another line of demarcation, separating the normal people from the geniuses, who like the feeble-minded formed a separate species.

It is obvious that those considered not even human were also left out of the Lockean notion of equality along with women, children, slaves, etc. The importance that we see attached to iq today, in particular in the endless debate over whether it can be tied to ethnicity, sex or gender, lies in the societal acceptance which inclusion in the normative range still brings. Inclusion programs focus on kindly teaching those at the ends of the bell curve how to be average. Utopias and futuristic societies nearly always show everyone equal as an ideal we have somehow attained, something only possible by eugenics.

The smug arrogance and condescending simper of most neurotypicals explaining something to a person with relative cognitive difficulties would be deemed a socialization problem if it were directed at a neurotypical. Usually neurotypicals don’t even attempt to communicate outside their comfort zone and it is left to those at the ends to have their attempts at communication judged and found wanting. The ease of communication awarded as a birthright to neurotypicals is promoted as a virtue, as being a good team player, communicator, socially adept or simply popular.

It is completely unacceptable to call a person relative terms such as ugly, fat or stupid. It is acceptable to point out that they are, relatively speaking, disfigured, obese or learning disabled. It is only within the average ranges that relative insults are verboten. The handicapped are called handicapped despite the obvious relative meaning to the term. Neurotypicals are also handicapped compared to some but they would not tolerate the term directed at them. Even calling them average or common is deemed insulting. Average must be presented as the ideal, a normal way of being.

The self-appointed normal in society once debated eugenics to dispose of those they labeled gradations of idiots, imbeciles and morons and condemned them to childhoods facing a corner with a dunce cap on. These days are not in the past as debates over whether those at one end should be allowed to vote or reproduce continue and people are classified as having a mental age of a number correlating to neurotypical development. Neurotypicals are comparatively mentally incompetent too but they are still allowed to vote on subjects far outside their comprehension. A society concerned about equal rights for all would consider that for everyone neurotypicals consider a relative imbecile there are equivalent numbers of people who feel the same about them.

Diversity and collaboration

Neurotypicals are raised with a deep belief in their right to participate in all aspects of society at every level. It is a very common neurotypical reaction when they feel excluded from a group or activity by lack of knowledge to assume there was some sort of invitation, initiation or training which they did not receive. They then demand to be appraised of all work and discussion, through meetings, minutes, memos etc. and to have everything explained to them. Their work methods are presented as superior as there is always plenty of evidence to show that the majority of workers prefer them. They are permitted to derail working environments on the basis of inclusiveness even while they are excluding those who work better at a faster or slower level. They are convinced they have an inherent right to be included as an equal in every working or decision making forum through the democratic principle of equal votes. The sneer that a person is always right implies some quota on the number of times it is socially acceptable to be right. Know-it-all is used as an insult, implying that knowing too much is an antisocial act.

If people wish to truly promote a fully egalitarian society then everyone must be made to converse at a level easily understood by the lowest level of cognitive ability. When parents are willing to allow their neurotypical children to be educated at a level two or four standard deviations below their own, the quest for equality will have some moral ground to stand on. Until then, collaborative environments must allow discussion at all levels to provide equivalent fulfillment. Not doing so simply drives epistemic communities into back rooms and secret groups where they are not obliged to communicate with the public and their work is not transparent for everyone’s benefit.

The conceit of individual genius is condemned by proponents of the far more unlikely conceit of originality from the hive mind. It is a physical impossibility for a group to have an original idea as it has no mind. The hive does have a shared memory bank and simultaneous thought can occur if an environmental stimulus triggers a shared memory but simultaneous thought is, by definition, not original. If an idea is new, not only must it come from one mind, it must be patiently taught and debated by the originator. If it is to be generally accepted it must also be presented as coming from the hive mind, the voice of the people or whatever the euphemism of the day is. If an idea must be explained to a broad section of the public it must come from a knowledge bridge in the form of a not too intelligent western man.

The economic elite, those holding the power in the world, play to this conceit by propping up folksy politicians such as the “little guy from Shawnigan” Jean Chretien or the definitely-not-smarter-than-you Sarah Palin, while the majority of the Davos Group have no public profiles. The economic elite are those who by luck and privilege find themselves in positions of power and influence. Elite intelligence and ability did not bring us the problems in the world today, it was greed and sociopathy across all levels of society. Neurotypical intolerance of others has prevented any transparency between epistemic communities and the general public and allowed sociopaths to stand between the two and control society.

The path from elite, specialized knowledge to broad acceptance is extremely difficult to traverse. Some people enjoy being knowledge bridges and appreciate the challenge, others find it frustrating and a waste of time. Right now everyone who is not at the top of the bell curve is expected to spend huge amounts of unacknowledged time and energy communicating with the neurotypical elite and their effort is never appreciated. It is usually punished. Ideas that are important for the public to understand and accept but are undesirable to those in power are easily intercepted and replaced with more convenient truths. The majority of ideas that could benefit the public simply never arrive as the source cannot find the way to communicate their idea or a way to receive the support needed to develop it.

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All humans have the equal right to attain their full potential

We do not have human dignity when we are kept in a state below what we are capable of achieving or in a system which fails to recognize where we naturally excel. We do not have the right to associate or to refuse to associate when we are made to converse always at a level far below or above where we are comfortable. We do not have societal acceptance when we are given an impossible ideal to attain to be part of society. We do not have our basic rights when they are contingent on our meeting an ideal which is impossible for us. We are not accepted as part of society if our needs must be met by charity.

Anyone within two standard deviations of the mean cognitive ability is able to travel through life in full expectation of being able to have a conversation at precisely their level with everyone. Most people are capable of connecting with others on a topic such as the weather but societal acceptance implies occasionally being able to have connections on deeper topics. Feeling always guarded against ridicule and misunderstanding and never having a real conversation contributes to a life of extreme loneliness and frustration. This is true not just for extreme ends of cognitive ability but for atypical thinkers of all kinds, even extreme introverts.

“Hollingworth also noted the acute social problems of children with IQs over 160. Moderately gifted children, those whose IQs measure between 125 and 155, were ones she found to be emotionally well balanced. These children had what she called a ‘socially optimal’ IQ level and had no problem making friends. But those with IQs over 160 typically suffered from social isolation.” (Winner 226).

Terman studied a population of lower iq than Hollingworth (average 150) and also selected people whose ability was recognized by their family and school and who were already in a track to achieve their potential. This population cannot be compared with those who have no hope of ever achieving their potential and are surrounded by a social group hostile to what they see as an enemy elite.

And yet Even Terman admitted that children with very high IQs faced acute social problems. Terman’s subjects who scored 170 or higher on IQ tests were said to have “one of the most difficult problems of social adjustment that any human being is ever called upon to meet.”At age fourteen, 60 percent of the boys with such high IQs and 73 percent of the girls were described by their teachers as solitary and as poor mixers. (Winner 225)

Note that these talented children and adolescents seem to have problems not because of any inherent social and emotional difficulties but rather because they are so different from others. They are ‘out of synch.’ If they could find others like themselves, their social problems might well disappear.”… Academically gifted children often underperform, not only because they are underchallenged but also because they work below their level to win social acceptance. (Winner 230)

Without the ability to communicate directly with society it is impossible to achieve the recognition or approval needed to survive.

The Psychology of Subnormal Children. Contributors: Leta S. Hollingworth – Author. Publisher: Macmillan. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1920.

Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. Contributors: Ellen Winner
Publisher: BasicBooks Place of publication: New York Publication year: 1996

Heather Marsh: government as mass collaboration

Originally published on Loomio’s blog.

Heather Marsh is a human rights and internet activist, programmer, political theorist, and former Editor in Chief at Wikileaks Central, and the author of Binding Chaos, a compelling blueprint for 21st century governance. An excerpt:

Binding Chaos – book by Heather Marsh We can do better than [representative democracy]. We can govern by user groups, respect individual rights and global commons, and collaborate using stigmergy. We can belong to overlapping societies voluntarily by acceptance of social contracts. Where necessary, elite expertise can be contained and used through transparent epistemic communities with knowledge bridges while control remains with the user group.

Loomio co-founder Richard D. Bartlett had the very good fortune to interview Heather recently, as part of our ongoing interview series: Inspiring Disruptors.

I’m really excited about your concept of “stigmergic collaboration, epistemic communities and knowledge bridges”. How would you describe these ideas to my 8 year old niece? (She is pretty smart).

Stigmergic collaboration is what happens when people who don’t have to talk to each other or know each other work on the same project and build something together. There has to be one idea that everyone understands and agrees on as a goal but beyond that no one is the boss or telling anyone how to work or even if they should work.

If you go into your doctor’s office and she has a puzzle on a table that other patients have been working on that is an example of stigmergy. You don’t know who has worked on it before or after you, but you know what to do and you are free to add a few pieces if you like.

There are much bigger ideas too, like “Information wants to be free”. There are many nodes under that stigmergic idea, everything from whistleblowers, MOOCs, file sharers, projects such as Wikipedia and Telecomix, open source everything and much more. Everyone is free to further the idea in their own way, the only commonality is the goal.

Epistemic communities are a way to provide elite expertise for projects without relinquishing control to an elite oligarchy. People or ideas are peer promoted from within the user group and communities remain transparent and permeable to everyone. Acceptance or rejection of the ideas is always up to the user group to avoid an unassailable oligarchy.

Knowledge bridges are people who help disseminate information from an expert to a novice level of understanding and collectively audit what the epistemic community is doing. Besides being essential for education and auditing, this is important to avoid demagogues who have the ability and time to develop mass appeal but are not the source of expertise at the level the world needs. Epistemic communities and knowledge bridges allow elite expertise a direct path of communication to the entire user group and provide a path for anyone in the user group to achieve elite expertise if they wish.

Your niece would understand this if she has ever looked up math games on the Internet. The Internet provides many knowledge bridges which help lead her to the epistemic community of elite mathematicians and allow her to become one if she chooses to study that hard.

Where are you seeing these ideas take hold? What do you see happening in the world that gives you hope?

Anywhere information can be very rapidly disseminated, verified, audited and acted upon is fertile ground for stigmergy, epistemic communities and knowledge bridges. I love the way MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) forums sometimes act as a job seeking forum with employers and collaborators finding talent by watching people work in a real setting instead of relying on official certification, like musical collaborations used to result from jam sessions. I also love the local affinity groups and friendships created from those courses.

The progress that gives me hope is in the areas which strive to get more people connected to collaborative networks and more amplification to silent voices. Stigmergy has always been our most powerful collaborative method and stigmergy follows ideas, so efforts to bypass control by corporate media, politicians, thought leaders and other representatives and allow people to contribute ideas directly with their own voices are essential.

Your conception of government as mass collaboration has really influenced my thinking in designing for Loomio. Do you have any ideas about the practice of making this idea real for people in their everyday lives?

Governance to me is action not an organization. It is something people have to just do. It is only after governance by the people is established that politicians can be lobbied into supporting it until it makes them obsolete. My first goal is to enable every person to participate, to write software, platforms and guides and provide outreach of all kinds to help people participate wherever their interests lie.

Unofficial ministries for each system should be set up as permanent open epistemic communities regardless of what government is in power. Currently, lobby groups are sometimes formed to attempt to influence policy but what is needed are full and permanent shadow cabinets by the people. When this shadow cabinet is established and effective, there will be no need for any other. The unofficial ministries which represent the will and peer promoted expertise of the people will guide policy or the elected politicians will face the consequences. The power of the voters is in the contribution of their ideas and actions far more than their ballot vote every four years or so. Official organizations and positions can be replaced by communities which are open to all to participate in. The unofficial ministries can call their own referendums and submit their own bills to elected MP’s when needed. In many cases the involvement of elected officials is not necessary, epistemic communities can guide policy through education and participatory discussion instead of official government policy.

Binding Chaos maps out a pretty compelling blueprint for a new way of structuring society; can we iterate towards it? Do you have ideas about fertile places to start? Whose job is it?

We have to start everywhere. It is everyone’s job to fight for their own autonomy and their own freedom to participate where they feel most excited and fulfilled. The world right now is full of people breaking out of the boundaries set for them, whether they are joining plenums in Bosnia or autodefensas in Mexico, scaling borders between Morocco and Melilla, breaking into a US nuclear weapons plant like 85 year old Sister Megan Rice, making themselves personally responsible for feeding and sheltering homeless people like OpSafeWinter, or fighting for justice for another human like the Free Omar Khadr Now group. Every person who decides to conduct their lives in a way that makes better sense to them and refuses to accept the status quo is participating. Not all ideas will be good, but if we all try we can iterate towards something that is better. And if we all try we can’t be stopped.

Have you had any thoughts about tools to enable this transition? Have you seen any promising approaches?

Collaborative problem solving tools like Loomio, etherpads and many others emerging now are a great help in shaping the way we work. Our methodologies need to change, and these tools will teach the new methodologies to a great extent. We need tools which are free of corporate or centralized control, which are part of their user communities and responsive to them. Organic community cooperatives like Loomio and Lorea are wonderful examples of responsive tool development.

I talked a bit in Binding Chaos about Twitter, Klout and other social media and their tendency to replicate and exaggerate our societal tendencies towards oligarchies. Digital currencies also currently facilitate our trade economy with almost all of its flaws intact. The social influence and currency algorithms both need to be re-examined to not just replicate our old methods but create new ways of interacting and relating to each other. An expiring currency would help to create a more sharing economy. A social influence algorithm that rewarded less on attracting celebrity attention and more on boosting unheard voices would change the impact of celebrity influence. We need more experimentation with the fundamental concepts behind influence and currency.

One of the key areas I would love to see progress is in knowledge repositories as global commons. We can’t have open, permeable epistemic communities on platforms with centralized control. The news will remain as transient spectacle until we have the tools to build knowledge from that information. Wikipedia by itself is not stigmergy, it is a tightly controlled cooperative. We need innovation in data modeling tools that will scale and connect and are not under centralized or corporate control.

What do you think can be done to create safe spaces online? Where have you seen this work well?

We have a lot of work to do first to decide what our definition of safe is. There is a sliding scale between free speech and freedom from the hate speech which is paradoxically a form of censorship. It is interesting to see different populations gravitate to different tools for playing with public influence, amplification and interaction depending on their ideas of where the ideal position on the scale is. I don’t think comfort levels are ever going to be uniform for different people and applications. Diversity of options and freedom from outside spying and control are essential.

Despite the obvious issues with Twitter it is the most interesting place to watch for global political communication, the only place you can publicly see politicians and participants in wars communicating with their opponents. Watching Twitter fights between Israeli forces and Gazans, the M23 militia and the FARDC military in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda politicians and the son of the man they are accused of just assassinating pushes the boundaries of communication about as far as I can imagine. To see these conversations cut short by censorship would be a huge loss.

There has been a great deal of discussion about trolls on Twitter and elsewhere, but they are to some extent the bottom feeders that keep the pond clean and are very self correcting in a troll eats troll platform. In a platform designed around celebrity and majority influence the unpopular opinions are left to the trolls so they are essential. The worst offenders in the name of free speech are those posting child abuse and other violations of privacy and personal integrity. In a self governed and open platform they can be dealt with by either the majority or a vigilante minority with support from law enforcement where crime is committed. The vigilante aspect is quickly reversed and turned on the vigilante if the public feels it is not justified. If a society agrees that certain behaviour cannot have anonymity it won’t for long. It is possible to design a platform where proxy routing anonymity can be tied to social approval so it would not be up to centralized control to decide.

A society with extreme free speech is too uncomfortable for many so it is essential to have both quiet places to work and open forums uncensorable by anything but public opinion and existing laws against child abuse and similar. Also essential is permeability, especially to influential forums. We now have a permanent Nemesis in astroturfing campaigns and attempts to game influence, plus spam. We have to somehow detect and block all that white noise while still maintaining both anonymity and ease of entry. This is definitely one of the most challenging puzzles we have to deal with right now, both socially and echoed in our tools.

How can we support your work?

In the interest of practicing what I preach, I have tried to not trade any of my work by manufacturing scarcity or withholding effort. It is my hope that people will one day pay for value already received by using the donate buttons at the top right on my blog instead of expecting a Kickstarter type campaign or funding drives. I also hope ideas will one day travel through peer promotion and knowledge bridges, not through personal brands or corporate promotion, so I do nothing with my work besides posting it on my blog. People who donate, share my work, use Amazon to share with prisoners, talk about it, translate it and encourage others to support it, leave me free to write and are very appreciated, even more since they are actively changing the world by using the methods described in Binding Chaos.