Pattern Recognition

There has been enough productive history to know what functional social systems look like, and the basic common factor is obvious. Institutions advance by substituting for trust.

(To the extent we still have any of these things …)
— We have market capitalism because businesspeople can’t be trusted.
— We have experimental science because neither truth intuitions nor scientists can be trusted.
— We have constitutional republicanism because neither political leaders nor the citizenry can be trusted.
— We have freedom of conscience because priests can’t be trusted.
— We have common law because neither legislators nor judges can be trusted.
— We have the blogosphere because the media can’t be trusted.
— We have gold coins buried in the garden because bankers can’t be trusted.
— We have basements packed with semi-automatic rifles because state law enforcement can’t be trusted.

Siding with intelligence has nothing at all to do with trusting, liking, or respecting intelligent people. It is intelligent people, typically, who run the engines of stupidity. ‘Trust, but
verify
‘ is politely euphemistic, and — in truth — wholly inadequate. Distrust, and test, test, test … to destruction wherever possible.

Three theses:
(1) The robust sophistication (or design quality) of any society or social institution is inversely proportional to the the trust it demands. This is not, of course, to be confused with the trust it earns.
(2) In any society capable of institution building, distrust is the principal driver of innovation. Systematization and automation, in general, incarnate distrust.
(3) Productive distrust reaches its apotheosis in the Internet, which routes around everything and everybody that has ever been believed.

March 18, 2013admin 7 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Uncategorized

TAGGED WITH :

7 Responses to this entry

  • spandrell Says:

    The problem with siding with intelligence,

    is that where’s the incentive for the not intelligent? There’s a lot of those, you know.

    And you’ve got rifles in your basement? Can you spare a couple?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    First, repetition: siding with intelligence isn’t a matter of siding with intelligent people. We see every day that the most intelligent people are highly inclined to side emphatically with stupidity, because they can afford to. If people, institutions, machines — the world in general — trends in the direction of intelligence, how is that of less benefit to the left side of the bell curve than the right? Stupid social arrangements hurt the stupid first, because they’re less competent at protecting themselves from dysfunction.
    I think the problem behind your concern is quite real, but rather different. It’s more or less impossible to move things generally in an intelligent direction without incentivizing intelligent behavior, which means that those most prone to unintelligent behavior receive the sharp end of the reciprocal disincentives, paying for their mistakes. Things then line up exactly as you predict.
    Europe is the prime example. The North / South division there corresponds quite exactly to a difference between behaving with at least moderate competence, and behaving like populist idiots. Of course, when Northern Europeans are polled on their attitudes, they respond by saying that people are basically responsible for their life outcomes, whilst Southern Europeans insist that fortunes are determined overwhelmingly by forces beyond human control. People or societies capable of rational self-criticism are those least urgently in need of it.
    This is where Left and Right part company most clearly. For the Left, failure is a misfortune to be ameliorated. For the Right, its a lesson to be learned. It is absolutely essential to the leftist attitude that it promotes degeneration (increasing stupidity), because it systematically erodes rational incentives. In leftist principle, resources should be extracted from those who make intelligent decisions in order to subsidize the stupid decisions of the ‘less fortunate’. Obviously, if a policy was being designed with the explicit goal of promoting stupidity, it would look exactly like mainstream leftism.

    More precisely on your point: it can’t be done. If rational popular political incentives were possible, then democracy would work. In fact, it would be great. We know that is not the situation.

    It makes more sense to eliminate the criterion of popularity from statecraft than to hope that degeneracy will become unpopular. The way to do that is to split.

    (You won’t need a rifle in Japan, will you?)

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    Well actually there’s bears in the mountains, but you are forbidden from killing them. Conservationism, you know. They on the other hand are not forbidden from eating you, so a rifle would be quite handy. I’ll have to wait till you can print your own though. Oh it’s gonna be funny.

    My point was that if you promote intelligence, then you give status to people who help promote intelligence, or that do intelligent things. The intelligent not always promote intelligence, but the stupid never promote it (they aren’t able to), so they wouldn’t get much status. And they want status, so there’s no incentive for them there.

    Your point is a better way of putting it.

    My old idea is a little less abstract, and consists on focus all society in space exploration. Make that a religious goal, something that everyone must contribute to. An 80 IQ kid washing the dishes of a rocket scientist would be contributing to it in his own way, so he’d be content and be valued for it. Not as much as the rocket scientist though, so there would always be friction. But people would stay busy.

    There’s tons of ways it could go wrong (guilds, malinvestment), but with enough competition from outside I think there would be some purpose on people’s lives.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 4:54 am Reply | Quote
  • Shenpen Says:

    This all only works if most people are usually trustworthy. That means a low time preference and good self control. If all businessmen would be hell bent on screwing your over because the country is so poor that they would otherwise not live an international middle class lifestyle (this is our case in Eastern Europe), or because of high time preference or something else, you would have an entirely different system, such as DIY or or a connections based one where you alway ask your friends to recommend a supplier.

    Whenever most people become too untrustworthy, states fail.

    The question is, how can a state make and keep people trustworthy? Religon? National pride?

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 23rd, 2013 at 3:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • intensification till dissolution – Antinomia Imediata Says:

    […] reterritorializes categorization and individualizing tendencies into increased social order through trustlessness. the Proudhonian solution, broadly apprehended is: escalate moralistic prejudice till […]

    Posted on June 29th, 2016 at 11:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Reconhecimento de Padrões – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on September 12th, 2016 at 3:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • bit-nations and sovereign services – Antinomia Imediata Says:

    […] the problem of immigration is a problem of knowing who to trust. in modernity, “institutions advance by substituting for trust”. bit-nations (the one extant, and the many yet to come) do […]

    Posted on April 19th, 2017 at 11:12 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment