Social Systems as Parasites

Seminar 1 December 2017, Francis Heylighen

Social Systems as Parasites

The power of a social system

1. In an experiment concerning punishment, people obey an instruction to administer others electric shocks. People tend to be obedient / “God rewards obedience” / “Whom should I obey first?” 2. When asked to point out which symbol is equal to another, people select the one they believe is equal, but when they are confronted with the choices of the other contestants, they tend to change their selection to what the others have chosen. Social systems in this way determine our worldview, namely the social construction of reality by specifying what is real.

Social systems suppress self-actualization

Social systems don’t ‘want’ you to think for yourself, but to replicate their information instead; social systems suppress non-conformist thought, namely they suppress differences in thought, and thereby they do not allow the development of unique (human) personalities: they suppress self-actualization. Examples of rules: 1. A Woman Should Be A Housewife >> If someone is a woman then, given that she shows conformist behavior, she will become a housewife and not a mathematician &c. Suppose Anna has a knack for math: If she complies then she becomes a housewife and she is likely to become frustrated; If she does not comply then she will become a mathematician (or engineer &c) and she is likely to become rebellious and suffer from doubts &c.2. To Be Gay is Unacceptable >> If someone is gay then, given that she shows conformist behavior, she will suppress gay behavior, but show a behavior considered normal instead; Suppose Anna is gay: If she complies she will be with a man and become frustrated; If she does not comply then she is likely to become rebellious, she will exhibit gay behavior, be with a woman, and suffer from doubts &c.

Social Systems Programming

People obey social rules unthinkingly and hence their self-actualization is limited (by them). This is the same as to say that social systems have a control over people. The emphasis on the lack of thinking is by the authors. The social system consists of rules that assists the thinking. And only thinking outside of those rules (thinking while not using those rules) would allow a workaround, or even a replacement of the rules, temporary or ongoing. This requires thinking without using pre-existing patterns or even thinking sans-image (new to the world).

Reinforcement Learning

1. Behaviorist: action >> reward (rat and shock) 2. socialization: good behavior and bad behavior (child and smile). This was a sparse remark: I guess the development of decision-action rules in children by socialization (smiling) is the same as the development of behavioral rules in rats by a behaviorist approach (shock).

Social systems as addictions

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter producing pleasure. A reward releases dopamine; Dopamine is addictive; Rewards are addictive. Social systems provide (ample) sources for rewards; Participating in social systems is a source of dopamine and hence it is addictive (generates addiction) and it maintains the addiction.

Narratives

Reinforcement need NOT be immediate NOR material (e.g. heaven / hell). Narratives can describe virtual penalties and rewards: myth, movies, stories, scriptures.

Conformist transmission

When more people transmit a particular rule then more people will transmit it. DPB: this reminds me of the changes in complex systems as a result of small injected change: many small changes and fewer large ones: the relation between the size of the shifts and their frequency is a power law.

Cognitive Dissonant

Entertaining mutually inconsistent beliefs is painful: the person believes it is bad to kill other people. As a soldier he now kills other people. This conflict can be resolved by replacing the picture of a person to be killed by the picture of vermin. The person thinks it is ok to kill vermin.

Co-opting emotions

Emotions are immediate strong motivators that bypass rational thought. Social systems use emotions to reinforce the motivation to obey their rules. 1. Fear: the anticipation of a particular outcome and the desire to avoid it 2. Guilt: fear of a retribution (wraak) and the desire to redeem (goedmaken); this can be exploited by the social system because there can be a deviation from its rules without a victim and it works on imaginary misdeeds: now people want to redeem vis-a-vis the social system 3. Shame: Perceived deficiency of the self because one is not fulfilling the norms of the social system: one feels weak, vulnerable and small and wishes to hide; the (perceived) negative judgments of others (their norms) are internalized. PS: Guilt refers to a wrong action implying a change of action; Shame refers to a wrong self and implies the wish for a change of (the perception of) self 4. Disgust: Revulsion of (sources of) pollution such as microbes, parasites &c. The Law of Contagion implies that anything associated with contagion is itself contagious.

Social System and disgust

The picture of a social system is that it is clean and pure and that it should not be breached. Ideas that do not conform to the rules of the social system (up to and including dogma and taboo) are like sources of pollution; these contagious ideas lead to reactions of violent repulsion by the ones included by the social system.

Vulnerability to these emotions

According to Maslow people who self-actualize are more resistant to these emotions of fear, shame, guilt and disgust.

DPB: 1. how do variations in the sensitivity to neurotransmitters affect the sensitivity to reinforcing? I would speculate that a higher sensitivity to dopamine leads to a more eager reaction to a positive experience, hence leading to a stronger reinforcement of the rule in the brain 2. how do higher or lower sensitivity to risk (the chance that some particular event occurs and the impact when it does) affect their abiding by the rules? I would speculate that sensitivity to risk depends on the power to cognize it and to act in accordance with it. A higher sensitivity to risk leads to attempting to follow (conformist) rules more precisely and more vigorously; conversely a lesser sensitivity to risk leaves space for interpretation of the rule, its condition or its enactment.

Distributed Intelligence

Heylighen, F. and Beigi, S. . mind outside brain: a radically non-dualist foundation for distributed cognition . Socially Extended Epistemology (Eds. Carter, Clark, Kallestrup, Palermos, Pritchard) . Oxford University Press . 2016

Abstract

We approach the problem of the extended mind from a radically non-dualist perspective. The separation between mind and matter is an artefact of the outdated mechanistic worldview, which leaves no room for mental phenomena such as agency, intentionality, or experience. [DPB: the rationale behind this is the determinism argument: if everything is determined by the rules of physics (nature) then nothing can be avoided and the future is determined. There can be no agency because there is nothing to choose, there can be no intentionality because people’s choices are determined by the rules of physics (it appears to be their intention but it is physics talking) and there can be no personal experience because which events a person encounters is indifferent from the existence of the (physical) person]. We propose to replace it by an action ontology, which conceives mind and matter as aspects of the same network of processes. By adopting the intentional stance, we interpret the catalysts of elementary reactions as agents exhibiting desires, intentions, and sensations. [DPB: I agree with the idea that mind and body are ‘functions of the same processes’. The intentional stance implies the question: What would I desire, want, feel in his place in this circumstance, and hence what can I be expected to do?] Autopoietic networks of reactions constitute more complex superagents, which moreover exhibit memory, deliberation and sense-making. In the specific case of social networks, individual agents coordinate their actions via the propagation of challenges. [DPB: for the challenges model: see the article Evo mailed]. The distributed cognition that emerges from this interaction cannot be situated in any individual brain. [DPB: this is important and I have discussed this in the section about the Shell operator, who cannot physically be aware of the processes out of his own scope of professional activities]. This non-dualist, holistic view extends and operationalizes process metaphysics and Eastern philosophies. It is supported by both mindfulness experiences and mathematical models of action, self-organization, and cognition. [DPB: I must decide how to apply the concepts of individuation, virtual/real/present, process ontology and/or action ontology, distributed cognition and distributed intelligence (do I need that?), and computation/thinking/information processing in my arguments].

Introduction

Socially extended knowledge is a part of the philosophical theory of the extended mind (Clark & Chalmers, 1998; Palermos & Pritchard, 2013; Pritchard, 2010): mental phenomena such as memory, knowledge and sensation extend outside the individual human brain, and into the material and social environment. DPB: this reminds of the Shell narrative. The idea is that human cognition is not confined to information processing within the brain, but depends on phenomena external to the brain: ‘These include the body, cognitive tools such as notebooks and computers, the situation, the interactions between agent and environment, communications with other agents, and social systems. We will summarize this broad scale of “extensions” under the header of distributed cognition (Hutchins, 2000), as they all imply that cognitive content and processes are distributed across a variety of agents, objects and actions. Only some of those are located inside the human brain; yet all of them contribute to human decisions by providing part of the information necessary to make these decisions’ [pp. 1-2]. The aim of this paper is to propose a radical resolution to this controversy (between processes such as belief, desire and intention are considered mental and other such as information transmission and processing, and storage as mechanical): we assume that mind is a ubiquitous property of all minimally active matter (Heylighen, 2011)’ (emphasis DPB: this statement is similar to (analogous to?) the statement that all processes in nature are computational processes or that all processes are cognitive and individuating processes) [p 2].

From dualism to action ontology

Descartes argued that people are free to choose: therefore the human mind does not follow physical laws. But since all matter follows such laws, the mind cannot be material. Therefore the mind must be independent, belonging to a separate, non-material realm. This is illustrated by the narrative that the mind leaves the body when a person dies. But a paradox rises: if mind and matter are separate then how can one affect the other? Most scientists agree that the mind ‘supervenes’ on the matter of the brain and it cannot exist without it. But many still reserve some quality that is specific for the mind, thereby leaving the thinking dualist. An evolutionary worldview explains the increasing complexity: elements and systems are interconnected and the mind does not need to be explained as a separate entity, but as a ‘.. mind appears .. as a natural emanation of the way processes and networks self-organize into goal-directed, adaptive agents’ [p 5], a conception known as process metaphysics. The thesis here is that the theory of the mind can be both non-dual AND analytic. To that end the vagueness of the process metaphysics is replaced with action ontology: ‘That will allow us to “extend” the mind not just across notebooks and social systems, but across the whole of nature and society’ [p 5].

Agents and the intentional stance

Action ontology is based on reactions as per COT. Probability is a factor and so determinism does not apply. Reactions or processes are the pivot in action ontology and states are secondary: ‘States can be defined in terms of the reactions that are possible in that state (Heylighen, 2011; Turchin, 1993)’ [p 7]. DPB: this reminds of the restrictions of Oudemans, the attractors and repellers that promote the probability that some states and restrict the probability that other states can follow from this particular one. In that sense it reminds also of the perception that systems can give to the observer that they are intentional. The list of actions that an agent can perform defines a dynamical system (Beer, 1995, 2000). The states that lead into an attractor define the attractor’s basin and the process of attaining that position in phase-space is called equifinality: different initial states produce the same final state (Bertalanffy, 1973). The attractor, the place the system tends to move towards is its ‘goal’ and the trajectory towards it as it is chosen by the agent at each consecutive state is its ‘course of action’ in order to reach that ‘goal’. The disturbances that might bring the agents off its course can be seen as challenges, which the agent does not control, but which the agent might be able to tackle by changing its course of action appropriately. To interpret the dynamics of a system as a goal-directed agent in an environment is the intentional stance (Dennett, 1989).

Panpsychism and the Theory of Mind

The “sensations” we introduced previously can be seen as rudimentary “beliefs” that an agent has about the conditions it is experiencing’ [p 10]. DPB: conversely beliefs can be seen as sensations in the sense of internalized I-O rules. ‘The prediction (of the intentional stance DPB) is that the agent will perform those actions that are most likely to realize its desires given its beliefs about the situation it is in’ [p 10]. DPB: and this is applicable to all kinds of systems. Indeed Dennett has designed different classes for physical systems, and I agree with the authors that there is no need for that, given that these systems are all considered to be agents (/ computational processes). Action ontology generalizes the application of the intentional stance to all conceivable systems and processes. To view non-human processes and systems in this way is in a sense ‘animistic’: all phenomena are sentient beings.

Organizations

In the action ontology a network of coupled reactions can be modeled: the output of one reaction forms the input for the next and so on. In this way it can be shown that a new level of coherence emerges. If such a network produces its own components including the elements required for its own reproduction it is autopoietic. In spite of ever changing states, its organization remains invariant. The states are characterized by the current configurations of the system’s elements, the states change as a consequence of the perturbations external to the system. Its organization lends the network system its (stable) identity despite the fact that it is in ongoing flux. The organization and its identity render it autonomous, namely independent of the uncertainties in its environment: ‘Still, the autopoietic network A interacts with the environment, by producing the actions Y appropriate to deal with the external challenges X. This defines the autopoietic organism as a higher-order agent: A+XA+Y. At the abstract level of this overall reaction, there is no difference between a complex agent, such as an animal or a human, and an elementary agent, such as a particle. The difference becomes clear when we zoom in and investigate the changing state of the network of reactions inside the agent’ [p 14]. DPB: this is a kind of a definition of the emergence of organization of a multitude of elements into a larger body. This relates to my black-box / transparency narrative. This line of thought is further elaborated on in the COT, where closure and self-maintenance are introduced to explain the notion of autopoiesis in networks. Closure means that eventually no new elements are produced, self-maintenance means that eventually all the elements are produced again (nothing is lost), and together they imply that all the essential parts are eventually recycled. This leads to states on an attractor. Also see COT article Francis. //INTERESTING!! In simple agents the input is directly transformed into an action: there is no internal state and these agents are reactive. In complex networks an input affects the internal state, the agent keeps an internal memory of previous experiences. That memory is determined by the sequence of sensations the agent has undergone. This memory together with its present sensations (perceptions of the environment) constitutes the agent’s belief system. A state is processed (to the next state) by the system’s network of internal reactions, the design of which depends on its autopoietic organization. A signal may or may not be the result of this processing and hence this process can be seen as a ‘deliberation’ or ‘sense-making’. Given the state of the environment, and given the memory of the system resulting from its previous experience, and given its propensity to maintain its autopoiesis, an input is processed (interpreted) to formulate an action to deal with the changed situation. If the action turns out to be appropriate then the action was justified and the rule leading up to it was true and the beliefs are knowledge: ‘This is equivalent to the original argument that autopoiesis necessarily entails cognition (Maturana & Varela, 1980), since the autopoietic agent must “know” how to act on a potentially perturbing situation in order to safeguard its autopoiesis’. This is connected to the notion of “virtue reliabilism”, that asserts that beliefs can be seen as knowledge when their reliability is evidenced by the cognitive capabilities (“virtues”) they grant the agent (Palermos, 2015; Pritchard, 2010) [p 15]. UP TO HERE //.

Socially distributed cognition

In our own approach to social systems, we conceive such processes as a propagation of challenges (Heylighen, 2014a). This can be seen as a generalization of Hutchins’s analysis of socially distributed cognition taking place through the propagation of “state” (Hutchins, 1995, 2000): the state of some agent determines that agentś action or communication, which in turn affects the state of the next agent receiving that communication or undergoing that action. Since a state is a selection out of a variety of potential states, it carries information. Therefore, the propagation of state from agent to agent is equivalent to the transmission and processing of information. This is an adequate model of distributed cognition if cognition is conceived as merely complex information processing. But if we want to analyze cognition as the functioning of a mind or agency, then we need to also include that agent’s desires, or more broadly its system of values and preferences. .. in how far does a state help to either help or hinder the agent in realizing its desires? This shifts our view of information from the traditional syntactic perspective of information theory (information as selection among possibilities) (Shannon & Weaver, 1963)) to a pragmatic perspective (information as trigger for goal-directed action (Gernert, 2006)(emphasis of DPB) [pp. 17-8]. DPB: this is an important connection to my idea that not only people’s minds process information, but the organization as such processes information also. This can explain how a multitude of people can be autonomous as an entity ‘an sich’. Distributed cognition is the cognition of the whole thing and in that sense the wording is not good, because the focus is no longer the human individual but the multitude as a single entity; a better word would be ‘integrated cognition’? It is propose to replace the terms “information” or “state” to “challenge”: a challenge is defined as a situation (i.e. a conjunction of conditions sensed by some agent) that stimulated the agent to act. DPB: Heylighen suggests that acting on this challenge brings benefit to the agent, I think it is more prosaic than that. I am not sure that I need the concept of a challenge. Below is an illustration of my Shell example: an individual know that action A leads to result B, but no one knows that U →Y, but the employees together know this: the knowledge is not in one person, but in the whole (the organization): John : U V, Ann : V→W, Barbara : W→X, Tom : X→Y. Each person recognizes the issue, does not know the (partial) answer, but knows (or finds out) who does; the persons are aware of their position in the organization and who else is there and (more or less) doing what. ‘Together, the “mental properties” of these human and non-human agents will determine the overall course of action of he organization. This course of action moves towards a certain “attractor”, which defines the collective desire or system of values of the organization’ [p 21]. DPB: if I want to model the organization using COT then this above section can be a starting point. I’m not sure I do want to, because I find it impracticable to identify the mix of the ingredients that should enter the concoction that is the initial condition to evolve into the memeplex that is a firm. How many of ‘get a job’ per what amount of ‘the shareholder is king’ should be in it?

Experiencing non-duality

Using the intentional stance it is possible to conceptualize a variety of processes as mind-like agencies. The mind does not reside in the brain, it sits in all kinds of processes in a distributed way.

Enacting – Structure and Agency

Lenartowicz, M. . How Social Forms Come Alive: The Enactive Workings of Discursive Positioning . Working Paper v.1. . 2017

Abstract

This is an exploration of the possibility to conciliate the structure and agency dichotomy in social science through the use of positioning theory. The focus is on the structural-enactive aspect of discursive positioning: ‘I argue that the positioning theory precisely identifies the social act which creates and sustains social forms’ [p 1]. DPB: without having read the article yet, the phrase above reminds me of the action by which a Situation (a Bubble) emerges: And an utterance is performed, And an information is included, And a perception is performed, by the triple selection of which a communication comes into being (or it is replicated and hence becomes part of a sequence).

1. Introduction

Traditional scientific disciplines are founded in traditional ontology, and hence attempts to address issues concerning traditional ontology do not usually originate in those same traditional sciences. The reason is that their differentiated existence would come into question. As a consequence the concepts used in such a field of research ‘involve’ in an ever more differentiated manner, without questioning the all too general ontological basis. Some of the ontological assumptions are wrong according to Van Langenhove (Van Langenhove L. Innovating the Social Sciences . Vienna: Passagen Verlag . 2007) and conserved by their perpetuation. In summary the problem of the common ontology is a Newtonian/Euclidean/Humean approach, in summary: thinking is performed by solid objects, fixed in space and time, deterministically influencing one another by cause and effect relations. The structuralist view on the world still dominates, because of the ontological problem with the phenomena (institutions, organizations, nations, communities &c.) around which the disciplines of the social sciences are organized. ‘When explicitly discussing their formative mechanisms, social scientists now tend to point to language and its creations, such as texts, discourses, or stories. However, in order to do social science, they seem to have no other methodological choice but to enter and continue the language game themselves. The comprehension of the linguistic, symbolic composition of the social matter, thus, has not yet taken them far; it does not bear much consequence for their research methodologies, or, even more importantly, for their research questions (emphasis by the author)’ [p 2]. The issue is that all social thinkers have presupposed the existence of language to, then, given language, think about the nature of society. The role of this paper is to research the fundamental constitutive function of language: ‘I will address the need for a conceptual path to bridge the gap between the formative function of language and the shapes and forms that people perceive and interact with while participating in the social world’ [p 3]. A methodology is required to account for these steps: human cognition > language > language use > social actions > social structures. ‘Such paths must be sound enough to make sure that what appears at the other side of the spectrum is, indeed, the result of ‘re-assembling the social’ (Latour 2007) not a projection’ [p 3].

2. Typification of social forms

Allowing people to forge and sustain representations of reality, language also allows us to name these representations. By the means of such naming, what initially was merely an entwinement of actions that happened to be observed as resonating and corresponding with one another – a frequently seen pattern, a repetitively performed chain of action, or a cluster of certain observable features – becomes a social form (entity, structure, system, institution, organization, network, rule, role, etc.). Alfred Schutz, Thoman Luckmann, and Peter L. Berger call that naming typification (Schutz 1967, Schutz & Luckmann 1973, Berger & Luckmann 1966). Typification is an assignment of a symbolic signifier to mark a social form, or, as Rom Harré (1975) calls it, a social icon’ (emphasis by the author) [p 5]. DPB: ‘When it has a name it is probably dangerous’ Lenartowicz, private conversation]. Once some assemblage has individuated to the point that its repetitions become noticeable / perceptible it is ready to beget a name. A pattern of a sufficiently individuated assemblage is in this way typified and the typified thing is now a social form or a social icon. Once it is named or rather that its name has been repeated a couple of times it is a communication. The name through the communication reciprocally provides stability to the pattern also: now it clear what it is and what it does.

3. Discursive positioning (intentional, on purpose, purposeful, rational)

Through speech acts people can place themselves and be placed by others in a social world via the vehicle of their social persons. This is an effect of the perlocutionary force of an utterance (what social position does it point at), hidden behind the locutionary aspect (what is said) and the illocutionary aspect (what is it said for) [p 5]. The effect of these utterances in practical terms can be monitored using 1st and 2nd order cybernetics. DPB: this reminds me of the connotations: I can account for the locutionary aspect (1st order: information content) and illocutionary (2nd order: to charge the information / idea with a ‘spin’); the perlocutionary is strictly speaking the social version of an illocutionary aspect and as such it is a 2nd order observation; it relates to the cognitive connotation, namely the perceived importance of the information / idea by the group. Perhaps this is a link between social systems and how memes are enacted in people’s minds.

4. Form Mutability

The positioning theory originally focuses on the manners in which speech acts are used to affect and shape social persons and confine them to a set of (rightly or not) assigned attributes and powers. In the triadic conceptualization of Harré and van Langenhove (1999) social actions/acts allocate people to positions, which are construed in relation to a relevant storyline. In my understanding, a storyline is what I referred to above as a social form: a symbolically marked typification of a different scrap of the overall social reality. As a result, while focusing on persons and their thus constructed situations, the theory precisely captures yet another perlocutionary consequence of speech acts. Positioning modifies not only the relative situations of persons but also the state of the social form to which the position is attributed’ [p 6]. DPB: In this way the knife cuts both ways: the person is assigned a position and as her narrative, explaining the entitlement to that position, is in use harnessing her social position, the position it designates is also tested against the social reality the person – and her symbolic position – are in. ‘If we realize that the ‘fabric’ from which a typification of any social form can be carved is nothing else than the totality of all social acts that are available to be observed, an inclusion of the acts performed by one particular person to that selected group of acts is admittedly equally as a phenomenological, interpretative operation as was our previous delineation. Nonetheless, there is one significant addition: the act of including – that is, the act of positioning. Because this is a social (speech) act as well, it is added to the totality of all acts that are available to be observed. The social fabric is expanded by another know, another twist. .. By the means of positioning, by the embedding of a reflection of a person in a form, a single social action can now change the state of that form dramatically – in just one sentence, one gesture, or one grimace’ [p 7]. As all communication, positioning now has become alive and it has come to serve its own purposes: to connect the behavior of social systems and people as social beings through the dynamics of social forms: ‘People who position themselves at the conference podium behave so similarly that the question arises: is it not the social form itself that is acting and affecting the world?’[p 8].

5. Enaction of social forms (I guess I would use the term enactment)

Searle (1990) aptly claims the we-mode of speech – in which we socially act not simply as ourselves but as a part of a social arrangement – to be the very peculiarity of language that brings social ontology into existence’ (emphasis by the author) [p 8]. DPB: tis I find an interesting thought: the reflection or projection onto language of a social construct that includes not just myself, but any form of social construction that includes others too. That word is the reflection of the whole of social systems and it forms the basis for social ontology. ‘When our speech acts position us in a particular social locus, and especially if this happens by the self-positioning of the first order, perlocutionarily, we speak as apart of social entities – possibly almost indistinguishable in our agency from theirs. We speak ‘for them’, ‘as them’, and ‘on behalf of them’, driving what is to be done, why, and how from what the form is comped of already. The dynamic agency of social forms deployed in such a we-mode can no longer be considered merely phenomenologically. Another ontological status is needed’ [p 8]. DPB: I like this as an example of ho someone can speak on behalf of a firm, in any case in the various roles that people associated with firms can have. What distinguishes this theory from others, is that it shows that people, for whatever reason, can actively pursue to manage their position in the group of people they are included in. And then the million dollar question: ‘What is, then, the relationship between people and social forms? A good name for this seems to be enacting. People engage in performing actions, interactions with the world on behalf of a form, as if they were its components, when they are not. Thus, the psycho-social process of positioning and being positioned by others bears a structural consequence: a thus-enacted social form comes to be seen as acting itself’ [p 9]. DPB: I have used this term enacting for the acting out of memes: when people are motivated (set in motion) to act as per the memes they are guided by at some point. But is is not necessarily in a social context, any meme goes. This theory complements the social systems theory by identifying by which mechanism one communication connects to another. In addition enaction is argued to be 1. the fundamental feature of cognition and 2. the formative mechanism that precedes the individuation of all cognizing entities, and hence: ‘the state of being enacted opens up a path for the conceptualization of the emergence of an even stronger existence of social forms’ (emphasis by the author) [p 9].

SemioSphere and Cognition

Lenartowicz, M. . Creatures of the Semiosphere – A problematic third party in the ‘humans plus technology’ cognitive architecture of the future global superintelligence . Technological Forecasting and Social Change . January 2017

Abstract

Human beings can exert selective pressure on emerging new life-forms. The theory of the Global Brain argues that the foreseen collective and distributed super-intelligence will include humans as its key beneficiaries. The collective architecture will include both humans and such new technologies. DPB: the selective pressure is on signals, the basic unity of communication: namely on the ‘utterances’ &c., information and understanding. According to Luhmann a social system is autonomous and this includes AGI development and GB. Humans can attempt to nudge and irritate these systems to change course, but the outcome of the evolutionary process cannot be known in advance and is therefore uncertain. This article serves to offers a new combination of existing theories: theory of adjacent possible (Kauffmann), semiosphere (Lotman), social systems (Luhmann), Theory of Intelligence (Heylighen). The history of the human species can be re-interpreted such that it is not the individual human being but the social systems that are the more advanced human intelligence currently operating on Earth.

Locating the Crown of Creation

To assume that the human being is the final feat of evolution, is, given its other accomplishments, indefensible. Only our feeling of self-importance makes us believe that we should (and will) remain around forever. Exposing that and theorizing about what comes next is therefore justified. ‘It seems now that we are starting to abandon yet another undue anthropocentric belief that the Artificial (DPB: including AGI), which is passing through our hands, is in simple opposition to the Natural and, as such, is excluded from the workings of evolution’ [p 2]. Because why is the passing through human hands be fundamentally different from the passing through a chemical or a physical process? There is no design condition with regards to size: ‘While the idea does appear fantastic when applied to human beings, for nature such shifts between scales – called meta-system transitions – Turchin 1977, Heylighen 1995) are nothing new’ [p 3]. This is extensively formulated in the theory of the global brain. The crux is an ever thickening and complicating network of communication that humans contribute to and process. According to the global brain the next stage in the evolution of intelligence ‘belongs to a complex, adaptive, cognizing network of interconnected agents: humans and technological systems (Heylighen 2015). A thinking, computing, analysing and strategizing, problem-spotting and problem-solving organ of the planet Earth herself’ [p 3]. DPB: it appears that there is no environment for an evolutionary stage where the entire (surface of) the Earth is occupied with the same; who performs the three selecting processes? An additional question is whether the passed-on crown will still be in our hands. Anthropomorphism is a constrain when thinking about these long term questions. Hence an alternative hypothesis: the social systems are the most intelligent systems on Earth at this point.

An Empty Niche in Hunter-Gatherer’s Eden

Genetically we belong to Eden’ [p 4]. Heylighen assumes that the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (a kind of a reference for the direction and level of adaptedness of human beings, the environment for which we are fit) is based on the hunter-gatherers era. Their fitness was supported by the development of language and other symbolic means of communication. These came about as a variation of the means for ‘exchanging useful information with others’ (Heylighen): ‘Thus, language has become a functional adaptation of the species and, by proving remarkably useful, it got selected to stay’ [p 5]. DPB: In this way language is a feat of biological evolution, adding to the fitness of people, namely through its usefulness. Luhmann’s view on language is that it serves a specific role in between the mind and the communication; that surely being one of his more foggy moments, language, from the moment the first ‘mbwa’ was repeated, came to be autonomous, and hence it was initially selected to stay because it added to the hunter-gatherer’s fitness, or, at least it was of some use and did not harm her enough to be selected away. But that provides sufficient space for language to develop itself in its particular evolutionary process (and not as per Luhmann’s special trajectory). The evolution of the swim bladder has had advantages for the fish and in addition it has created an ‘adjacent possible’, namely a new niche for particular bacteria. In the same vein, the development of symbolic means of communication have provided humans with a new feature, and has created an adjacent possible, ‘within which new designs of evolution could appear. And, what is most spectacular: this niche was created outside the biosphere, giving rise to what Yuri Lotman (2001, 2005) called the semiosphere’ (emphasis by the author) [p 6]. First, this proved to be a pragmatic form of signaling and coordinating of actions. Second it provided an increase of the representational capacity. Third, language enabled the building of relations between occurrences of communication, the semiosphere;’They could refer to, describe, interpret, and evaluate other occurrences of symbolic communication, which have happened before’ [p 6]. In that environment these components of communication, new evolutionary forms could assemble (DeLanda), individuate (Simondon 1992, Weinbaum&Veitas 2016), self-organize (Heylighen 1989, 2002) and evolve. And their evolution again created additional adjacent possibles to be occupied by yet other symbolic forms.

Individuation of the Semiospecies

Therefore, if we consider the development of language as giving rise to the (as yet) empty niche of the semiosphere, it would be the Luhmannian social systems what should be considered the newcomers – the novel forms of life, enabled to emerge and evolve by the adjacent possible’ [p 8]. DPB: I annoted here ‘sunfall’: sounds great but I forgot why. Otherwise it is a good quote to sum up what is explained in the previous paragraph. When it was empty, the semiosphere contained only individual instances of communication for single use, unentangled with other. ‘.. the ‘already not-empty’ semiosphere included also complex, lifelike entanglements of such instances, capable of the prolonged perpetuation of their own patterns and of exerting influence onto their own respective environments (Lenartowicz, Weinbaum & Braathen 2016)’ [p 8]. These entanglements take place as per the three selections of information, utterance and understanding (Luhmann 2002). When these selections are made then three distinctions are added to the semiosphere: the information making boundary between marked (the information that was selected to be included in the signal) and unmarked space (what could have been chosen but wasn’t; and remain available as an ‘adjacent possible’ for a next state), the semiotic boundary between the signified and the signifier (carrier of the information, the form or utterance) and the sense-making boundary between the created sign (and the context (the situation against which the understanding was selected, and harnessed because it was selected at the expense of other ways to understand it). DPB: whatever the signal is made of, once it is a sign (information uttered and understood) the next state of the communication is different from its previous state, but not so different that the communication stops. And hence it is individuating to ever more crystallize the communication monadically! The point Marta makes (and told me she introduced in the NASA article where I can’t find it back in) is that the concept of memes connects with this model: they are what it is that hooks the sequences of signals together to become a communication. I am trying to find a suitable example to illustrate this. ‘.. each of such couplings between two occurrences of communication may be seen as one occurrence ‘passing judgment’ – or projecting its own constitution – upon another. The combinatorial possibilities of how any single occurrence may be related to by a following one are multiple’ [p 10]. DPB: this reminds me of the idea that intention consists in fact of processes of attraction and repulsion. At every state the configuration of properties of the elements / parts is such that its relations seem to favor some and shy away from other possible future states, namely by causing an attraction to some and a repulsion from others. ‘In time, the interacting occurrences of communication form ever-complicating streams, in which each occurrence adheres to many others in multiple ways. Gaining in length, ‘mass’, and coherence, these strings form ‘metastable entities in the course of individuation whose defining characteristics change over time but without losing their long term intrinsic coherence and distinctiveness from their milieu’ (Lenartowicz, Weinbau & Braathen 2016)’ (emphasis by the authors) [p 11]. DPB: the remark about coherence reminds me firstly of the idea of connotations: loose, associative relations between signs. The semiosphere is the universe of all the occurrences of all the symbolic communication. It emerged at the first intentionally issued and understood symbol. DPB: can it be that this occurred at the first instance of 2nd order observation: the issuer of the signal observed and understood that her production of (what was turning out to be) a signal, brought about something in another person in the shape of a kind of behavior (or the lack of it: use your knife and fork!), remembered how to produce the signal, and hence deemed useful to do it again whenever that effect, namely the reaction in the other was desired by the issuer. Conversely now the perceiver understands that the issuer has a particular kind of behavioral reaction in mind whenever she issues that signal and so she remembers it also and when it it is perceived and understood in the future that kind of behavior can be produced (eat with knife and fork, but now very noisy). ‘But a semiosphere understood as a simple aggregate of all communicative occurrences happening in the world was bound to be ‘empty’, as a niche, as long as these communicative occurrences did not relate to one another. If they did not relate, they could not be conserved, and thus had to dissolve momentarily’ [p 11]. DPB: I interpret this as to mean that the the semiosphere could be filled only after it was possible to repeat the use of the signals, and I assume it also means that then it is required to start using them in each other’s context, such that they can be constructed by framing/deframing/reframing them (Luhmann 2002). The repetition allowed for individuation of language and communication to take place; stigmergy provided a memory for the objects and places of interest for the hunter-gatherers’ communities. ‘As a result, the boundaries of social systems were practically equal to the topological boundaries delineating the groups of people who were trained in their processing: if anyone was going to reinforce a certain communication by referring to it within the close circle of its eye and ear witnesses’ [p 13]. DPB: this is how we do things around here and if you act like this you surely can be only one of them. When the use of symbols occurred is uncertain, but at least prior to the earliest cave paintings 40ky ago.

A superintelligence which goes unnoticed

The above can be summarized in the statement that assemblages of symbols can self-organize and individuate into creatures of the semiosphere. Now the next step is the statement that these creatures behave intelligently, given that: ‘The thought experiment proposed here is different (to considering the preponderance of the intelligence of a group of people over that of a number of individuals, DPB). It is to consider the intelligence of the self-organizing streams communication delineated in such a way, which treats the human species as their environment’ [p 14]. DPB: I have referred to this condition of people in regards to their relation to communication or memeplexes as a substrate. Should I replace the more unfriendly substrate for environment? The definition of intelligence of Heylighen is used: ‘.. not abstract reasoning (agree DPB), thinking (this is Weaver’s approach, DPB), or computing (this is my approach, but meant in the sense of information processing). It is rather directing and coordinating the actions of an organism within its environment’ [p 14]. DPB: I am not sure of the relevance of the concept of intelligence for my research subject. As it is defined here it is similar to the capacity to anticipate, namely reduce the uncertainties from the environment. In the same vein it can be stated that intelligence is the processing of information from outside so as to steer the operations of a system so as to maintain its autopoiesis intact. The article refers to Heylighen 2014, who points at fitness, but I am not so sure about that concept: it is a constant: a level of performance of the internal operations which is required to have the smallest possible advantage in the real over the entities in the environment. I don’t know. The concept of environmental fitness might be explained by this model of three layers: 1. the environment which is referred to by the communication, 2. other occurrences of symbolic communication, and 3. substrate needed for the operating of the system, namely through uttering, memory, selection making, &c. ‘Once a communication is immortalized through writing, print, digitalization, or another for of recording, it may as well wait decades or centuries for its follower’ [p 16]. DPB: my annotations says stigmergy, but I don’t think that is intended with that concept. It reminds me of the way people can interact in my Logistical Model: there is no reason this should be ‘live’, or at the same location or even at the same time. In other words: to read a book is logically a way to interact with the author of the book. This admittedly feels asymmetrical, because it a one-way thing because you cannot talk back at the author to let her know your response. It is a signal that damages the reader but the not the other way around. And there is also no 2nd order observation in place. But: it is a signal, a meme changes state and so at least it is a bubble. ‘Symbols, narratives, context, and operational consequences can be always restored. This suggests that while, in the most general sense, the environmental fitness of any ‘semiocreature’ hinges on the ability to attract and tie successive occurrences of communication, this process does not have to be continuous nor instant’ [p 16]. DPB: I am curious about the ‘tying’: that is represented by my connotations. ‘What is less frequently realised is that the (re-)presentations are potentially stoppable at any time through a simple withdrawal of all reinforcing communication-making activity on the human side. But this seems to be about the only possible way of dismantling them, as occurrences of communication do reinforce the (re-)presentations of social systems even if they aim to criticize, challenge, or modify them. ‘Semiocreatures’ which are being spoken of are never dead’ [p 17]. DPB: this reminds of the saying that any publicity is good publicity. Also this is why some politicians remain popular for an unimaginable long time. Lastly this refers to the idea of familiarization: when referred to more often, an idea stays on top of mind, but if referred to less often it becomes less and less ‘readily available’ (paraat). Perhaps the idea is not realised so often (as per above) because according to Spinoza people can’t help themselves and they must talk. (With a reference to the ability to deal out stuff to people that are to the advantage of the dealer and not the person) ‘If intelligence is measured by the ability to safeguard and increase one’s own environmental fitness, when confronted with a ‘semiocreature’, we are quite fast to give it up’ [p 18].

The Way we are Free

‘The Way we are Free’ . David R. Weinbaum (Weaver) . ECCO . VUB . 2017

Abstract: ‘It traces the experience of choice to an epistemic gap inherent in mental processes due to them being based on physically realized computational processes. This gap weakens the grasp of determinism and allows for an effective kind of freedom. A new meaning of freedom is explored and shown to resolve the fundamental riddles of free will, ..’. The supposed train of thought from this summary:

  1. (Physically realized) computational processes underpin mental processes
  2. These computational processes are deterministic
  3. These computational processes are not part of people’s cognitive domain: there is an epistemic gap between them
  4. The epistemic gap between the deterministic computational processes and the cognitive processes weakens the ‘grasp of determinism’ (this must logically imply that the resulting cognitive processes are to some extent based on stochastic processes)
  5. The weakened grasp leads to an ‘effective kind of freedom’ (but what is an effective kind of freedom? Maybe it is not really freedom but it has the effect of it, a de facto freedom, or the feeling of freedom)?
  6. We can be free in a particular way (and hence the title).

First off: the concept of an epistemic gap resembles the concept of a moral gap. Is it the same concept?

p 3: ‘This gap, it will be argued, allows for a sense of freedom which is not epiphenomenal,..’ (a kind of a by-product). The issue is of course ‘a sense of freedom’, it must be something that can be perceived by the beholder. The question is whether this is real freedom or a mere sense of freedom, if there is a difference between these.

‘The thesis of determinism about actions is that every action is determined by antecedently sufficient causal conditions. For every action the causal conditions of the action in that context are sufficient to produce that action. Thus, where  actions are concerned, nothing could happen differently from the way it does in fact happen. The thesis of free will, sometimes called “libertarianism”, states that  some actions, at least, are such that antecedent causal conditions of the action are not causally sufficient to produce the action. Granted that the action did occur, and it did occur for a reason, all the same, the agent could have done something else, given the same antecedents of the action’ [Searle 2001]. In other (my, DPB) words: for all deterministic processes the direction of the causality is dictated by the cause and effect relation. But for choices produced from a state of free will other actions (decisions) are possible, because the causes are not sufficient to produce the action. Causes are typically difficult to deal with in a practical sense because some outcome must be related to its causes. This can only be done after the outcome has occurred. Usually the causes for that outcome are very difficult to identify, because the relation is  if and only if. In addition a cause is usually a kind of a scatter of processes within some given contour or pattern, one of which must then ‘take the blame’ as the cause.

There is no question that we have experiences of the sort that I have been calling experiences of the gap; that is, we experience our own normal voluntary actions
in such a way that we sense alternative possibilities of actions open to us, and we sense that the psychological antecedents of the action are not sufficient to fix the action. Notice that on this account the problem of free will arises only for consciousness, and it arises only for volitional or active consciousness; it does not arise for perceptual consciousness‘ [Searle 2001]. This means that a choice is made even though the psychological conditions to make ‘the perfect choice’ are not satisfied, information is incomplete or a frivolous choice is made: ‘should I order a pop-soda or chocolate milk?’. ‘The gap is a real psychological phenomenon, but if it is a real phenomenon that makes a difference in the world, it must have a neurobiological correlate’ [Searle 2001]. Our options seem to be equal to us and we can make a choice between various options on a just-so basis (‘god-zegene-de-greep’). Is it therefore not also possible that when people are aware of these limitations they have a greater sense of freedom  to make a choice within the parameters known and available to them?

It says that psychological processes of rational decision making do not really matter. The entire system is deterministic at the bottom level, and the idea that the top level has an element of freedom is simply a systematic illusion… If hypothesis 1 is true, then every muscle movement as well as every conscious thought, including the conscious experience of the gap, the experience of “free” decision making, is entirely fixed in advance; and the only thing we can say about psychological indeterminism at the higher level is that it gives us a systematic illusion of free will. The thesis is epiphenomenalistic in this respect: there is a feature of our conscious life, rational decision making and trying to carry out the decision, where we experience the gap and we experience the processes as making a causal difference to our behavior, but they do not in fact make any difference. The bodily movements were going to be exactly the same regardless of how these processes occurred‘ [Searle 2001]. The argument above presupposes a connection between determinism and inevitability, although the environment is not mentioned in the quote. This appears to be flawed because there is no such connection. I have discussed (ad-nauseam) in the Essay Free Will Ltd, borrowing amply from Dennett (i.a. Freedom Evolves). The above quote can be summarized as: if local rules are determined then the whole system is determined. Its future must be knowable, its behavior unavoidable and its states and effects inevitable. In that scenario our will is not free, our choices are not serious and the mental processes (computation) are a mere byproduct of deterministic processes. However, consider this argument that is relevant here developed by Dennett:

  • In some deterministic worlds avoiders exist that avoid damage
  • And so in some deterministic worlds some things are avoided
  • What is avoided is avoidable or ‘evitable’ (the opposite of inevitable)
  • And so in some deterministic worlds not everything is inevitable
  • And so determinism does not imply inevitability

Maybe this is how it will turn out, but if so, the hypothesis seems to me to run against everything we know about evolution. It would have the consequence
that the incredibly elaborate, complex, sensitive, and – above all – biologically expensive system of human and animal conscious rational decision making would actually make no difference whatever to the life and survival of the organisms’ [Searle 2001]. But the argument cannot logically be true and as a consequence nothing is wasted so far.

In the case that t2>t1, it can be said that a time interval T=t2-t1 is necessary for the causal circumstance C to develop (possibly through a chain of intermediate effects) into E. .. The time interval T needed for the process of producing E is therefore an integral part of the causal circumstance that necessitates the eventual effect E. .. We would like to think about C as an event or a compound set of events and conditions. The time interval T is neither an event nor a condition‘ [p 9-10]. This argument turns out to be a bit of a sideline, but I defend the position that time is not an autonomous parameter, but a derivative from ‘clicks’ of changes in relations with neighboring systems: this quote covers it perfectly: ‘Time intervals are measured by counting events‘ [p 9]. And this argues exactly the opposite: ‘Only if interval T is somehow filled by other events such as the displacement of the hands of a clock, or the cyclic motions of heavenly bodies, it can be said to exist‘ [p 9], because time is the leading parameter and the events such as the moving of the arm of a clock is the product. This appears to be the world explained upside down (the intentions seem right): ‘If these events are also regularly occurring and countable, T can even be measured by counting these regular events. If no event whatsoever can be observed to occur between t1 and t2, how can one possibly tell that there is a temporal difference between them, that any time has passed at all? T becoming part of C should mean therefore that a nonzero number N of events must occur in the course of E being produced from C’ [p. 9]. My argument is that if a number of events lead to the irreversible state E from C then apparently time period T has passed. Else, if nothing irreversible takes place, then no time passes, because time is defined by ‘clicks’ occurring, not the other way around. Note that the footnote 2 on page 9 explains the concept of a ‘click’ between systems in different words.

The concepts of Effective and Neutral T mean a state of a system developing from C to E while conditions from outside the system are injected, and where the system develops to E from its own initial conditions alone. Note that this formulation is different from Weaver’s argument because t is not a term. So Weaver arrives at the right conclusion, namely that this chain of events of Effective T leads to a breakdown of the relation between deterministic rules and predictability [p 10], but apparently for the wrong reasons. Note also that Neutral T is sterile because in practical terms it never occurs. This is probably an argument against the use of the argument of Turing completeness with regards to the modeling of organizations as units of computation: in reality myriad of signals is injected into (and from) a system, not a single algorithm starting from some set of initial conditions, but a rather messy and diffuse environment.

Furthermore, though the deterministic relation (of a computational process DPB) is understood as a general lawful relation, in the case of computational processes, the unique instances are the significant ones. Those particular instances, though being generally determined a priori, cannot be known prior to concluding their particular instance of  computation. It follows therefore that in the case of computational processes, determinism is in some deep sense unsatisfactory. The knowledge of (C, P) still  leaves us in darkness in regards to E during the time interval T while the  computation takes place. This interval represents if so an epistemic gap. A gap during which the fact that E is determined by (C, P) does not imply that E is known or can be known, inferred, implied or predicted in the same manner that  fire implies the knowledge of smoke even before smoke appears. It can be said if so that within the epistemic gap, E is determined yet actually it is unknown and  cannot be known‘ [p 13]. Why is this problematic? The terms are clear, there is no stochastic element, it takes time to compute but the solution is determined prior to the finalization of the computation. Only if the input or the rules changes during the computation, rendering it incomputable or irrelevant. In other words: if the outcome E can be avoided then E is avoidable and the future of the system is not determined.

.. , still it is more than plausible that mental states develop in time in correspondence to the computational processes to which they are correlated. In other words, mental processes can be said to be temporally aligned to the neural  processes that realize them‘ [p 14]. What does temporally aligned mean? I agree if it means that these processes develop following, or along the same sequence of events. I do not agree if  it means that time (as a driver of change) has the same effect on either of the processes, computational (physical) and mental (psychological): time has no effect.

During gap T the status of E is determined by conditions C and P but its specifics remain unknown by anyone during T (suppose it is in my brain then I of all people would be the one to know and I don’t). And at t2, T having passed, any freedom of choice is in retrospect, E now being known. T1 and t2 are in the article  defined as the begin state and the end state of some computational system. If t1 is defined as the moment when an external signal is perceived by the system and t2 is defined as the moment at which a response if communicated by the system to Self and to outside, then the epistemic gap is ‘the moral gap’. This phrase refers to the lapsed time between the perception of an input signal and the communicating of the decision to Self and others. The moral comes from the idea that the message was ‘prepared in draft’ and tested against a moral frame of reference before being communicated. The moral gap exists because the human brain needs time to compute and process the input information and formulate an answer. The Self can be seen as the spokesperson, functionally a layer on top of the other functions of the brain and it takes time to make the computation and formulate its communication to Self and to external entities.

After t1 the situation unfolds as: ‘Within the time interval T between t1 and t2, the status of the resulting mental event or action is unknown because, as explained, it is within the epistemic gap. This is true in spite the fact that the determining setup (C, P) is already set at time t1 (ftn 5) , and therefore it can be said that E is already determined at t1. Before time t2, however, there can be no knowledge whether E or its opposite or any other event in <E> would be the actual outcome of the process‘ [p 17]. E is determined but not known. But Weaver counter argues: ‘While in the epistemic gap, the person indeed is going through a change, a computation of a deliberative process is taking place. But as the change unfolds, either E or otherwise can still happen at time t2 and in this sense the outcome is yet to be determined (emphasis by the author). The epistemic gap is a sort of a limbo state where the outcome E of the mental process is both determined (generally) and not determined (particularly) [p 17]. The outcome E is determined but unknown to Self and to God; God knows it is determined, but Self is not aware of this. In this sense it can also be treated as a change of perspective, from the local observer to a distant more objective observer.

During the epistemic gap another signal can be input into the system and set up for computation. The second computation can interrupt the one running during the gap or the first one is paused or they run in parallel. However the case may be, it is possible that E never in fact takes place. While determined by C at t1 not E takes place at t2 but another outcome, namely of another computation that replaced the initial one. If C, E and P are specific for C and started by it then origination is an empty phrase, because now a little tunnel of information processing is started and nothing interferes. If they are not then new external input is required which specifies a C1, and so see the first part of the sentence and a new ‘tunnel’ is opened.

This I find interesting: ‘Moreover, we can claim that the knowledge brought forth by the person at t2 be it a mental state or an action is unique and original. This uniqueness and originality are enough to lend substance to the authorship of the person and therefore to the origination at the core of her choice. Also, at least in some sense, the author carrying out the process can be credited or held responsible to the mental state or action E, him being the agent without whom E could not be brought forth‘ [p 18]. The uniqueness of the computational procedure of an individual makes her the author and she can be held responsible for the outcome. Does this uphold even if it is presupposed that her thoughts, namely computational processes, are guided by memes? Is her interpretation of the embedded ideas and her computation of the rules sufficiently personal to mark them as ‘hers’?

This is the summary of the definition of the freedom argued here: ‘The kind of freedom argued for here is not rooted in .., but rather in the very mundane process of bringing forth the genuine and unique knowledge inherent in E that was not available otherwise. It can be said that in any such act of freedom a person describes and defines herself anew. When making a choice, any choice, a person may become conscious to how the choice defines who he is at the moment it is made. He may become conscious to the fact that the knowledge of the choice irreversibly changed him. Clearly this moment of coming to know one‟s choice is indeed a moment of surprise and wonderment, because it could not be known beforehand what this choice might be. If it was, this wouldn‟t be a moment of choice at all and one could have looked backward and find when the  actual choice had been made. At the very moment of coming to know the choice that was made, reflections such as „I could have chosen otherwise‟ are not valid  anymore. At that very moment the particular instance of freedom within the gap  disappears and responsibility begins. This responsibility reflects the manner by  which the person was changed by the choice made‘[pp. 18 -9]. The author claims that it is not a reduced kind of freedom, but a full version, because: ‘First, it is coherent and consistent with the wider understanding we have about the world involving the concept of determinism.  Second, it is consistent with our experience of freedom while we are in the process of deliberation. Third, we can now argue that our choices are effective in the world and not epiphenomenal. Furthermore, evolution in general and each person‟s unique experience and wisdom are critical factors in shaping the mental processes of deliberation‘ [p 19]. Another critique could be that this is a strictly personal experience of freedom, perhaps even in a psychological sense. What about physical and social elements, in other words: how would Zeus think about it?

This is why it is called freedom: ‘Freedom of the will in its classic sense is a confusion arising from our deeply ingrained need for control. The classic problem of free will is the problem of whether or not we are inherently able to control a given life situation. Origination in the classic sense is the ultimate control status. The sense of freedom argued here leaves behind the need for control. The meaning of being free has to do with (consciously observing) the unfolding of who we are while being in the gap, the transition from a state of not knowing into a state of knowing, that is. It can be said that it is not the choice being originated by me but  rather it is I, through choice, who is being continuously originated as the person that I am. The meaning of such freedom is not centered around control but rather around the novelty and uniqueness as they arise within each and every choice as one‟s truthful expression of being‘ [p 20]. But  in this sense there is no control over the situation, and given there is the need to control is relinquished, this fact allows one to be free.

‘An interesting result regarding freedom follows: a person‟s choice is free if and only if she is the first to produce E. This is why it is not an unfamiliar experience that when we are in contact with persons that are slower than us in reading the situation and computing proper responses, we experience an expansion of our freedom and genuineness, while when we are in contact with persons that are faster than us, we experience that our freedom diminishes.

Freedom can then be understood as a dynamic property closely related to computation means and distribution of information. A person cannot expect to be free in the same manner in different situations. When one‟s mental states and actions are often predicted in advance by others who naturally use these  predictions while interacting with him, one‟s freedom is diminished to the point where no genuine unfolding of his being is possible at all. The person becomes a  subject to a priori determined conditions imposed on him. He will probably experience himself being trapped in a situation that does not allow him any genuine expression. He loses the capacity to originate because somebody or something already knows what will happen. In everyday life, what rescues our freedom is that we are all more or less equally competent in predicting each other‟s future states and actions. Furthermore, the computational procedures that implement our theories of mind are far from accurate or complete. They are more like an elaborate guess work with some probability of producing accurate predictions. Within such circumstances, freedom is still often viable. But this may  soon radically change by the advent of neural and cognitive technologies. In fact it is already in a process of a profound change.

In simple terms, the combination of all these factors will make persons much more predictable to others and will have the effect of overall diminishing the number of instances of operating within an epistemic gap and therefore the  conditions favorable to personal freedom. The implications on freedom as described here are that in the future people able to augment their mental processes to enjoy higher computing resources and more access to information will become freer than others who enjoy less computing resources and access to information. Persons who will succeed to keep sensitive information regarding their minute to minute life happenings and their mental states secured and  private will be freer than those who are not. A future digital divide will be translated into a divide in freedom‘ [pp 23-6].

I too believe that our free will is limited, but for additional and different reasons, namely the doings of memes. I do believe that Weaver has a point with his argument of the experience of freedom in the gap (which I had come to know as the ‘Moral Gap’) and the consequences it can have for our dealings with AI. There my critique would be that the AI are assumed to be exactly the same as people, but with two exceptions: the argument made explicit that 1) they compute much faster than people and the argument 2) left implicit that people experience their unique make-up such that they are confirmed by it as per their every computation; this experience represents their freedom. Now people have a unique experience of freedom that an AI can never attain providing them a ticket to relevance among AI. I’m not sure that if argument 2 is true that argument 1 can be valid also.

I agree with this, also in the sense of the coevalness between individuals and firms. If firms do their homework and such that they prepare their interactions with the associated people, then they will come out better prepared. As a result people will feel small and objectivised. They are capable of computing the outcome before you do hence predicting your future and limiting you perceived possibilities. However, this is still a result of a personal and subjective experience and not an objective fact, namely that the outcome is as they say, not as you say.

Cultural Evolution of the Firm

Weeks, J. and Galunic, Ch. . A Theory of the Cultural Evolution of the Firm: The Intra-Organizational Ecology of Memes . Organization Studies 24(8): 1309-1352 Copyright 2003 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks, CA & New Delhi) . 0170-8406[200310]24:8;1309-1352;036074 . 2013

A theory of the cultural evolution of the firm is proposed. Evolutionary and cultural thinking is applied to the questions: What are firms and why do they exist? It is argued that firms are best thought of as cultures, as ‘social distributions of modes of thought and forms of externalization’. This culture encompasses cultural modes of thought (ideas, beliefs, assumption, values, interpretative schema, and know-how). Members of a group enact the memes they have acquired as part of the culture. Memes spread from mind to mind as they are enacted; the resulting cultural patterns are observed and interpreted by others. This refers to the meeting of content and process: as memes are enacted the ‘physical’ topology of the culture changes and as a consequence the context for the decisions of other changes. Variation in memes occurs through interpretation during communication and the re-interpretation in different contexts. The approach of taking the meme’s eye view allows a descriptive and non-normative theory of firms.

Introduction

Firm theory: Why do we have firms? (and to what extent do they have us?). Firms have a cultural influence on people and that is why it is difficult to answer the question of why firms exist: we believe we need them because we were schooled in believing that. ‘They serve our purposes because they have a hand in defining those purposes and evaluating their achievement’ (p 1309). Assuming this is true then a functionalist approach, treating firms as if they are people’s tools, doesn’t help to understand why firms function as they do. It is not sufficient to start at a normative model and explain away the rest as noise as is the common practice with firm theorists; as a start they assume that firms should exist (for instance because of a supposed performance advantage over market forms of coordination) and that these theoretical advantages would pan out in practice. It is argued that a truly descriptive theory of the firm takes seriously the idea that firms are fundamentally cultural in nature and that culture evolves.

Existing theories of the firm

1) Transaction cost economics (Coase, Williamson): individuals will organize in a firm rather than contract in a market because firms are efficient contractual instruments; this organization economizes transaction costs. A contender is knowledge based firm theory (Conner and Prahalad, Kogut and Zander, Grant) positing that firms are better than markets at applying and integrating knowledge to business activity. These theories are complementary in the sense that they share the idea that business organizations exist because they offer some economic advantage to members. This theory makes a further attempt at enhancing purely economic theories of the firm. This theory reaches beyond the idea of a firm as a knowledge bearing entity to a culture bearing entity, where culture is a much wider concept of ideas than mere knowledge. In addition it is required to understand that some elements will enhance the organization’s performance and further the interests of its members and other will not. The theory must explain both. In addition the theory must explain how a firm functionally evolves if it is not towards an optimum in a best of possible worlds while aberrations are minimalized.

Defining Characteristics of the Firm

In transaction cost economics, the difference between a market and a firm is defined by authority (Coase). If B is hired by A to reduce the transaction cost of the market, then A controls the performance of B and hierarchy is introduced, whereas in a market A and B are autonomous: hierarchies and markets differ in how they exert control. The word ‘firm’ denotes the name under which the business of a commercial house is transacted, its symbol of identity (Oxford English Dictionary). It came to refer to a partnership for carrying on a business and then expanded to a broad definition of any sort of business organization. Hierarchy is common in business organizations, but it is not the defining attribute. The defining difference between market and firm is not only control but also identity; this is a key insight of the knowledge based view (Kogut and Zander 1992). People express this identity in their shared culture (Kogut and Zander 1996); the identity reflects participation in a shared culture. The knowledge based view claims that it is this shared culture that affords firms their lower transaction costs compared to the market. However, culture is left exogenous in the knowledge-based theory and in the transaction-based theory; culture is presupposed in both.

Assumptions

Bounded rationality: only if people are fully rational is the neo-classical assumption of rationality justified. In that case the organizational advantage over markets is limited and this assumption of transaction-based economics is invalid. If agents are unable to construct contracts with one another as autonomous agents is it valid. Similarly if no threat of opportunism exists and everybody is fully trustworthy (and known to be so) then organizations bring no additional advantage over the markets, market operations and firm operations imply the same transaction costs. Because this element is of a weak form (it suffices if some agents are unreliable), this is a realistic assumption. The third assumption is the functionalism: not only should transaction cost be economized, but given time and sufficient competitive forces (Williamson and Ouchi 1981: 363-364: 10 years). However, for the transaction cost theory to be descriptive, it needs an explanation of the identification and realization of the efficiency of the economies of the costs of transactions; how do economic agents know the origins, the effects of the cost and how do they know how to economize on them? This requires strong assumptions of neo-classical competition and human rationality. The knowledge-based firm theory is also functional and it is assumed that: 1) the interests of the individual and the enterprise are aligned and 2) individuals can and will always identify the relation between performance and business organization and market respectively when deciding whether to establish a firm or definitely be selected out in time. Firms are theorized to do better than markets is to share and transfer knowledge between members of the organization, individuals and groups, because of the shared identity. This shared identity is built through culture and this takes time; not only does it allow capturing of specific knowledge, also it limits the kind of future knowledge can be further captured and exploited.

An evolutionary model is more suitable: firms evolve as cultures and this need not be functional from the point of view of the organization as a whole. Cultural patterns do not necessarily arise among a social group because they benefit the members of the group equally: power may result in the benefiting of some members more than others, some elements of organizations even though carefully managed do not benefit every member equally and some elements seem not to benefit or disadvantage anyone. Culture seems to be an emergent phenomenon and even organizations that were created for specific purposes tend not to dissolve after having met them, but rather tend to adapt their goals for new purposes unforeseen by their founders.

Intra-organizational Perspective

Individuals learn more about organizations if they are more and longer involved with them, but they are likely to not learn all of it and seldom to accept all that is learned. This is called ‘population thinking’ (Ernst Mayer): every member of the organization has an interpretation resulting in a scatter of cultural elements that they carry and reproduce in a slightly different way. The scatter results in a center of gravity (or a contour) of the prototypical culture of the firm. The interpretation of the culture by each member is a variation to that prototype. None of them might be exactly the same but they have what Wittgenstein calls the ‘family resemblance’: ’They share enough of the beliefs and values and meanings and language to be recognized and to recognize themselves as part of the culture’ (p 1316) NB: this prototype resembles the organization of the autopoietic system that keeps it intact as a unity and that gives it its identity such as to allow it to be recognized by an observer. The entire scatter of cultural elements that builds the firms culture is the structure. Those elements that are dispensable are structure, those that are not are also part of the organization of the autopoietic system that is the firms culture. Complications: 1) how is the social distribution formed and how does it change over time? A theory is needed for the ecology of the cultural elements as well as how they change as they spread over the organization and how a flow of new cultural elements enter the firm and has an impact on existing culture 2) How do the careers of cultural elements develop over time. Memes refer to cultural modes of thought values, beliefs, assumptions, know-how &c. ‘Culture results from the expression of memes, their enactment in patterns of behavior and language and so forth’ (p 1317). Studying evolution of culture it is important to keep in mind that memes have a meanings in the context of other memes.

A firm theory based on knowledge-based firm theory must take into account not only knowledge but culture; it must be evolutionary so as to account for the firms’ changes over time, while a ‘use’ or a ‘purpose’ for some or all of the members of the population is not required for the change to take place.

Memes: The Unit of Cultural Selection

What this means is that the overall, intricate patterns of culture that we call firms are not the best understood as the result of the conscious and coherent designs of astonishing organizational leaders. Instead, for better or for worse, they emerge step-by-step out of the interactions of intendedly rational people making what sense they can of their various situations, pursuing their various aims, and often acting in ways that they have difficulty explaining, even to themselves’ (p 1318)

The key to evolution in the sense of an algorithm providing selection, variation and retention is that it postulates a population of replicators but it does not make assumptions about what those can be. Assuming that the environment stays the same, then every next generation will be slightly better adapted to that environment than the previous one. Competition is assumed for some scarce resource, be it food, air or human attention. Retention assumes the ability of a replicator to be copied accurately. ‘Firms and markets are cultural entities. They have evolved in the same way any part of culture evolves: though selection, variation and retention of memes. Memes are the replicators in cultural evolution. They are the modes of thought (ideas, assumptions, values, beliefs and know-how) that when they are enacted (as language and other forms of expression)create the macro-level patterns of culture. Memes are units of information stored in the brain that replicate from brain to brain as people observe and interpret their cultural expression. .. Memes are the genes of culture. Just as plants and animals and all biological organisms are the phenotypic expression of particular combinations of genes, so cultural patterns such as firms are the phenotypic expression of particular combinations of memes’ (p 1320)

Small Replicators

Genes are the replicators, not the organism. Organisms exist because they are a good way to replicate. Memes are the replicators, not people and not culture. But those memes that are part of firms replicate more than those who aren’t. ‘We have the firms that we do, in other words, not because they are necessarily good for society or good for their members (though often they are both), but fundamentally because they are good was for memes to replicate themselves’(p 1321). To study a firm in this sense is the equivalent of studying ecology: selection but not variation nor retention. Firms do not replicate themselves in toto; selection, however, is theorized as occurring to this object in its entirety. A unit of selection is required that is smaller than the firm as a whole.

Systemic Elements and Social Phenomena

First premise: memes are small and analytically divisible. Second premise: the environment where the selection of memes takes place principally includes other memes. The memes build on themselves and they do so according to the ‘bricoleur principle’ (Lévi-Strauss 1966: 17): building on making use of the materials at hand. Memes are recycled and recombined, informing and constraining the creation of new memes. Some are implicated more than others. NB: here the existence of culture is confused with the existence of memes. The latter are the tools for thought and culture is built of their enactment. And so memes are the experiments (anything that can be uttered) and culture is their expression in the physical world, even spoken, gestured & written (anything that is in fact uttered). ‘In firms, these fundamental memes are akin to what Schein ((1992) calls basic assumptions. They are deeply held assuumptions about the nature of reality and truth, about time aand space, and about the nature of human nature, human activity, and human relationships (Schein 1992: pp. 95-6). When these are widely shared in a culture, they tend to be taken for granted and therefore pass unnoticed. They structure the way firm members think of the mission and goals of the firm, its core competencies, and the way things are done in the firm. Often borrowed and reinterpreted from some part of the wider context in which the firm is located, they are central to the identity of the firm and the identity the firm affords its members. The concept of meme must be robust enough to include these taken-for-granted assumptions if it is to serve usefully as the unit of selection in a theory of the cultural evolution of the firm’ (p 1323). NB This does not explain clearly whence memes come. My premises is that the firm is a cultural pattern originating in the memes that stem from the commonly held beliefs in a society. Not that they merely structure goals and mission, but that they are the stuff of them. There is indeed a relation between the memes and the identity of the firm. There is no mention of the belief systems and more specifically belief in the idea of progress, ala capitalism &c.

Why Memes

Meme is the umbrella term for the category containing all cultural modes of thought. Memes are cultural modes of thought. The concept preserves the distinction between modes of thought and their forms of externalization: the memes in people’ s heads and the ways they talk and act and the artifacts they produce as a product of enacting those memes. ‘The firm is a product of memes in the way that the fruit fly is the product of genes’ (p 1324): a distinction is possible between particular elements of culture and the memes that correspond to them. ‘Memes, the unit of selection, are in the mind. Culture, on the other hand, is social. Culture reflects the enactment of memes. Culture is a social phenomenon that is produced and continuously reproduced through the words and actions of individuals as they selectively enact the memes in their mind. Culture may be embedded in objects or symbols, but it requires an interpreting mind to have meaning and to be enacted’ (p 1324)

With memes in Mind

Without human minds to enact it and interpret it, there is no culture: ‘Memes spread as they are replicated in the minds of people perceiving and interpreting the words and actions and artifacts (compare Hannerz 1992: 3-4; Sperber 1996: 25). They vary as they are enacted and reinterpreted’ (p 1324). A change in culture can be seen as a change in the social distribution of the memes among the members of the population carrying that culture. NB: the social distribution trick gets rid of the meme – culture difference. A change in memes produces different enactment in turn produces different culture resulting in different cultural products such as utterances and artifacts. From the existence of phenotypic traits, the existence of genes and their relation to that phenotype (that property) can with some considerable difficulty be inferred through a reverse engineering exercise. The analog statement is that from cultural features the existence of these particular memes that caused those features can be inferred. This statement is of a statistical nature: ‘He is implicitly saying: there is variation in eye color in the population; other things being equal, a fly with this gene is more likely to have red eyes than a fly without the gene. That is all we ever mean by a gene ‘for’ red eyes’ (p 1325, Dawkins 1982: 21). Concerning the substance of memes and the way it is enacted in culture: ‘Studies of psychological biases (Kahneman and Tversky 1973) can help us to understand ways in which the make-up of our brains themselves may shape the selection of memes’ (p 1326).

The Meme’s-Eye View

The essence is that not survival of the organism but survival of the genes best capable to reproduce themselves. These statements are usually congruent: whatever works for the organism works for the gene and the genes best suitable to reproduce are inside the fittest organism. The Maltusian element of Darwin’s theory is that evolution is about selection based on competition for a scarce resource; in the case of memes the scarce resource is human attention. Memes compete to be noticed, to be internalized and to be reproduced. Memes can gain competitive advantage by their recognized contribution to the firms performance; misunderstanding or mismanagement can lead to reproduction of the wrong memes by management. If firms would be subject to competition and the least successful would die out at each generation then the most successful would thrive in time: ‘We hold that a theory of the firm must be able to explain not why we should have firms, but why we do have the firms (good, bad, and ugly alike) that we have’ (p 1327). NB: This is too modest and I do not agree: before anything can be said about their characteristics, an explanation must be in place about the raison d’ for firms, why does something like a firm exist? But why this limitation of the scope of the explanation?

Mechanisms of Selection, Variation, and Retention

Selection. A meme is internalized when the cultural expression corresponding to it is observed and interpreted by a member of the firm. NB: Is not a form of memorization required such that the observation and enactment are independent in time and ready for enactment? A meme is selected when it is enacted. ‘At any point in time, the pattern of selection events acting on a given variation of memes across the firm defines the ecology of memes in the firm’ (p 1327) NB: Firstly it defines the culture in the firm as the expressions of actions, the enactments of the memes hosted by individuals; those enactments in turn harbor memes and those remain for other members to observe, to interpret and at to enact at some occasion. Selective pressures on memes are: function, fit and form. Function: members believe that some function is served when a particular meme is enacted. This is not straightforward because 1) functionality is wrongly defined because reality and the reaction to it is complex, especially given that people are boundedly rational. Events will conspire to ensure that ill-functioning memes are selected against: members notice that they do not lead to the aspired goal and stop reproducing them. If not they may be removed from their position or the part of the firm or the entire firm is closed. For myriad reasons (p 1328), members may not deviate from their belief in the functional underpinning for a particular meme and they keep reproducing it; therefore function is not a strong argument for the selection of memes. 2) Fit: the manner in which a meme fits into a population of other memes and the memes that fit with other dominant memes stand a better chance of survival: ‘Institutional theory emphasizes that organizations are open systems – strongly influenced by their environments – but that many of the most fateful forces are the result not of rational pressures for more effective performance but of social and cultural pressures to conform to conventional beliefs’ (Scott 1992: 118 in p 1329) NB: this is crucial: the beliefs deliver memes that deliver culture hen they are enacted. The feedback loop is belief > memes > culture > memes > culture and performance is a cultural by-product. How does the produced culture feed back into the memes? ‘Powell and DiMaggio (1991: 27-28) describe this environment as a system of ‘cultural elements, that is, taken-for-granted beliefs and widely promulgated rules that serve as templates for organizing’. In other words, as a system of memes’ (p 1329). NB: this is complex of just-so stories guiding everyday practice. ‘The memetic view shares a central assumption with institutional theory: choices and preferences cannot be properly understood outside the cultural and historical frameworks in which they are set (Powell and DiMaggio 1991: 10). Our perspective, our identity, is a cumulative construction of the memes we carry (see Cohen and Levinthal 1990; Le Doux 2002). We are a product of our memes’ (p 1329) NB: this is a long and generalized version of the memes originating in a belief in the idea of progress. ‘By focusing analysis on the social distributions of memes within the firm, rather than assuming the firm is a monolith that adapts uniformly to its competitive or institutional environment, the memetic view suggests that its isomorphism is always imperfect, and that there are always sources of variation that may evolve into important organizational traits’ (p 1330). NB: this is the equivalent of the monadic view: as perfect as possible given circumstances and time, but never quite perfect. Also the identity of the firm as a consequence of the autopoietic organization and the structure is develops and that adds additional traits to the identity but that can be selected away without losing its identity as a unity. 3) Memes can be selected for their form: the morphology of genetic expressions may influence reproductive success; the ease with which an idea can be imitated is correlated to its actual reproductive success (urban legend, disgustingness, sound bite, self-promotion in the sense of piggybacking on others so as to be reproduced more often and in the sense of creating more network externalities (Blackmore on altruism), catchyness, stickyness).

Variation

Novel combinations of memes and altogether new memes. NB if a memeplex is an autopietic system then it is closed to external information. It is a linguistic system. Signals are received and trigger the system to react to them. But no information is actually transferred; this implies that memes stay inside the memeplex and that other members carrying other memeplexes copy based on what they perceive is the effect of the meme in another member in their context. A distinction is made into mutation and migration of memes. The latter does not exist in in autopoietic systems. Hiring is limited because of the tendency to hire those who are culturally close to the firm as is; and the effect of firing severs the availability of their views. Different backgrounds of people in a firm are seen as a source of diversity of memes. NB: how does this idea match autopoiesis?

A difference is pointed out between potential variation and realized variation: the number of new memes that come available to the members of the firm versus the number of new memes that are actually realized. ‘If there is ‘information overload’ and ‘information anxiety’, then it is to a great extent because people cannot confidently enough manage the relationship between the entire cultural inventory and their reasonable personal share in it’ (Hannerz 1992: 32 in p 1332). In this way an increase in the potential memetic variety can lead to a decrease in the realized memetic variety. Whether a relation exists between the potential and the realized in evolving systems is unclear. ‘But an evolutionary perspective, and an understanding of the firm as an ecology of memes, should make us a little more humble about predicting unidirectional outcomes between such things as diversity and performance’ (p 1333). Mutation is a source of variation via misunderstandings. These are in practical terms the rule rather than the exception, especially if conveyed not via written or even spoken word. The final source of variation is recombination: move around the group and then actual recombination. NB: this is the preferred version in an autopoietic system.

Retention

Key elements are 1) longevity, 2) fidelity, and 3) fecundity. 1) Longevity is about the firm reproducing itself through the actions of individuals as they conduct recurring social practices and thereby incorporate and reproduce constituent rules and ideas, memes, of the firm. ‘In other words, firm activity is not a fixed object, but a constant pattern of routine activity that reproduces the memes that express these routines’ (p 1335). NB: routine activity in this phrase resembles the organization of an autopoietic system 2) Fidelity means how accurately memes are copied. This is an advantage over markets. ‘The defining elements of the firm (its characteristic patterns of control and identity) provide for meme retention. Control in firms means that employees accept to a relatively greater degree than in markets that they may be told how to behave and even how to think. They accept, in other words, reproducing certain memes and not others’ (p 1335). NB: this is a key notion: based on this definition of control in firms, this is the effect that firms have as the context (ambience) for their employees: they get to copy some desired memes and not others. I have a difficulty with the word ACCEPT in this context: how does it relate to the concept of free will and the presumed lack of it? ‘Those memes that become part of the firm’s identity become less susceptible to change (Whetten and Godfrey 1998). Being consistent with dominant memes in the firm becomes a selection factor for other memes, which further reinforces fidelity’ (p 1336). NB: Copy-the-product versus copy-the-instruction. 3) Fecundity refers to the extent to which a meme is diffused in the firm. This depends on the mind that the meme currently occupies: the more senior the member, the higher the chance that the meme gets replicated. ‘The cultural apparatus includes all those specializations within the division of labor which somehow aim at affecting minds, temporarily or in a enduring fashion; the people and institutions whose main purpose it is to meddle with our consciousness’ (Hannerz 1992: 83). This was meant to apply to societies (media &c.), but it can be used for firms just the same, especially because it is assumed to part of the standard outfit of firms that some groups of people meddle with the minds of other groups.

Why Do Firms Exist?

Why has the cultural evolution process led to a situation where the memes bundle together as firms?’ (p 1337). The scope of the answer is in the bundling of the memes (into patterns of control and identity) such that they have a competitive advantage over others; why do memes that are a part of firms replicate more often than memes that are not a part of a firm? NB: Weeks and Galunic are mistakenly assuming that memes in firms benefit their host by offering them an advantage (p 1338). ‘A cultural and evolutionary theory also forces us to recognize that the reasons firms came into existence are not necessarily the reasons this form persists now’(p 1338). Two questions arise: 1) what are the historical origins of the evolution of the firm and 2) why does the concept of the firm persist until today? Ad 1 origins) the idea is that large (US) firms exist around 50 years. The concept started as a family-run firms and grew from that form to a larger corporate form. As the scale of the business grew it was not longer possible to oversee it for one man and so management emerged, including the functional areas of production, procurement &c. ‘From a meme’s-eye view, we would say that these memes produced cultural effects with a tremendous functional selection advantage, but they did so only when bundled with each other. This bundling was made possible by the enacted identity and control memes of the firm. Thus, together, both sets of memes flourished’ (p 1339). ‘In evolutionary terms, this pattern is to be expected. Through bundling, replicators can combine in ways that produce more complex expressions that are better to compete for resources (such as human attention in the case of memes), but this bundling requires some apparatus to be possible. In our case, this apparatus consists of the memes that enact the firm’ (p 1340). NB: Because of their complexity they are better suited to compete because they better manage to retain bundles of memes for business functions such as production, procurement and distribution. Firms enhanced the faithful reproduction and enactment of those memes; they have reduced variation.

Persistence

Once the bundle of memes we call the firm had emerged, the logic of its evolution changed somewhat and the possibility of group selection emerged’ (p 1340). NB: I don’t believe that the concept of the firm has changed since it was initially conceived: it must be mirrored. Also as an autopoietic system it has to have existed as a unity and an organization, a unity from the outset in whatever slim shape. It cannot ‘emerge’ from nothingness and evolve into something.’There is always a balance in any evolving system between the longevity offered by retention at the level of the individual meme and for adaptation at the level of of the bundle of memes. The firm emerged because of the reproductive advantages it gave memes, but it persisted because it was also able to provide more effective variation and selection processes’ (p 1340). NB: this is about the diffusion of administrative and managerial processes.

Retention

Firms offer memes advantages of retention as a result of: 1) control: peole can be told what to do and what to think 2) the identity that employees develop towards their firms, which brings them to hold certain memes close and protect them against different ideas. ‘Control and identity come together in firms by virtue of the legitimacy granted generally by society and specifically by employees to managers of firms to impose and manipulate corporate culture and thus the assumptions, beliefs, values, and roles internalized by employees and enacted by them not only in the organization (when management may be looking to ensure displays of compliance) but outside as well’ (p 1341). NB: I find this still not entirely satisfactory, because I am convinced that the memes carried by management may be somewhat more specialized than those of the people outside the firm, but the general ideas are widely known and carried by members of society. A firm could not exist in a society where some of the memes that compose a firm do not exist or are not believed to be true. ‘Without very much exaggeration we might say that firms are systems of contractual docility. They are structures that ensure, for the most part, that members find it in their self-interest to be tractable, manageable and, above all, teachable’ (p 1341). The economy for an incumbent meme to be added to the memeplex is described as follows: ‘When you can give ideas away and retain them at the same time, you can afford to be generous. In contrast, it is less easy to maintain allegiance to any number of contradictory ideas, and especially to act in line with all of them. Thus, if somebody accepts your ideas and therefore has to discard or reject competing ideas, in belief or in action, he may really be more generous than you are as a donor’ (Hannerz 1992: 104 in p 1341). NB: members protect memes because they are a product of them. Firms through their efforts of dedicated management to replicate meme high-fidelity and their firm-specific language, facilitate the retention of memes in the minds of their members.

Apart from control and authority, firms provide identity for members. At the core of institutional thinking two elements are held: 1) human actors are susceptible to merging their identity with that of the firms and 2) to be an institution presupposes some stable core memes as attractors of social union. Ad 1 identity) people are inclined to collective enterprise for a need to cooperate (Axelrod 1997) and from a natural tendency to seek and adopt moral order (Durkheim 1984; Weber 1978): ‘This is the sense in which the firms have us as much as we have them: they socialize us, fill our heads with their memes, which shape our sense of identity and which we carry, reproduce, and defend outside the organization as well as inside’ (p 1342). NB: this is where process and content meet: members reproduce the memes provided by the firm and the enacted memes produce the culture which is the environment for the members to base their beliefs on about ‘how things are done around here’. The culture is now also the basis for the development of memes; the content has become process. ‘.. the presence of managerially assigned monetary incentives and career progression that motivate the display of adherence to corporate memes; and, not least, the power of leaders to sanction and select out actors who do not abide by corporate values’ (p 1342).

Selection and Variation

Firms offer two sorts of selection and variation advantages to memes: 1) they offer a context that places memes that are potentially beneficial to the firm in closer proximity to one another than is typical in markets (complementary ideas, groups socially evolving norms) and 2) the presence of professional management who motivated and responsible for the creating and enforcement of memes considered beneficial. ‘.. firms have an advantage over markets as superior explorers of design space and thus are beter able to create variation through novel recombinations of memes’ (p 1344).

Maximen

The word Maximen is a contraction of the words ‘maxima sententia’. It represents a game where statements about human behavior are delivered. There are three rules for the game: the maximen must be compact, apply to human behavior in general and contain a ‘pointe’ that guarantees succes as a game. La Rochefoucauld had his first version ciculate in 1663, first published in 1664. More publications with his amendments followed; the last publication bore his strongest signature and was published in 1678.

This is a selection of some Maximen of La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680). They are an attempt at the identification of universal patterns in human behavior. The principle that such a thing as universal human behavior exists perhaps points at a pattern in human behavior as a result of other, for instance biological motivators, or general held beliefs.

I put some annotations at each, the reasons why these were selected and the ‘Ch’ refers to the chapter of the book in progress I thought it connects to.

106 About the development of knowledge.

Ch Bib de bab?

Om iets goed te kennen moeten we de details kennen, maar omdat er bijna oneindig veel van zijn, blijft onze kennis altijd oppervlakkig en gebrekkig.

153 About in-born skills and how they develop. Analogy to the relation genotype and phenotype. Analogy to skills coming to bear in an environment that ‘folds around you’.

Ch Patterns in space and time?

De natuur schenkt ons talenten, het lot zet ze aan het werk.

161 Something to do with world view, predicting, planning and acting.

Ch Fair Enough

Onze daden moeten in verhouding staan tot onze voornemens als we een optimaal resultaat willen bereiken.

165 About the utilitarian view that to amass wealth is in itself considered ‘good’. Here specific for the populace.

Ch belief in progress

Met onze verdienste verwerven we de waardering van achtenswaardige mensen, met onze voorspoed die van het volk.

230 About the inclination of people to copy other people’s behavior deeply rooted in human nature.

Ch mirror mirror

Niets is zo aanstekelijk als een voorbeeld. Onze grote weldaden brengen andere weldaden, onze grote misdaden andere misdaden voort. We bootsen weldaden na uit rivaliteit, en misdaden door onze boosaardige natuur die de gevangene was van schaamte, maar door het voorbeeld in vrijheid wordt gesteld.

249 About presentation.

Intonatie, oogopslag en voorkomen van de spreker zijn minstens zo welsprekend als de keus van zijn woorden.

256 About the inclination of people to copy other people’s behavior deeply rooted in human nature. See 230

Ch mirror mirror

Onder alle omstandigheden meten we ons uiterlijk het uiterlijk voorkomen aan van degene voor wie we willen doorgaan. Onze wereld is een wereld van toneelspelers.

270 About the role of reputation especially when it concerns moral decisions.

Ch All d

Behaalde eer staat borg voor eer die nog behaald moet worden.

302 About the human tendency to act on what things appear to be; to act on what things are is seen as risky and wise only if not much is at stake. About rationality?

Ch belief systems oid

We nemen alleen het risico ons niet door de schijn te laten bedriegen, als er weinig op het spel staat.

316 About the mechanism of power: if a difference in power exists then incentives exist that motivate the weaker person to follow that incentive, namely how the stronger persoon expects him to behave and as a consequence to behave differently than how he would have otherwise behaved.

Ch The trouble with harry, de veranderende macht van bedrijven

Wie zwak is kan niet oprecht zijn.

345 About the circumstances revealing our identity to others and to us. About the functions forcing us to show our identities in certain circumstances.

Ch darwinian identity: wagensberg quotes

Het zijn de omstandigheden die onthullen wie we zijn, niet alleen aan anderen, maar vooral aan onszelf.

375 About mediocre minds judging negatively on anything out of their reach. Useful?

Middelmatige geesten veroordelen gewoonlijk alles wat buiten hun bereik valt.

447 About manners (etiquette) as a model for behavior being held in high regard. Useful?

Van alle wetten is fatsoen de minst belangrijke, maar de meest gerespecteerde.

Uit de Weggelaten Maximen

14 About the moral rule that property is protected by the group and how it is rooted in the fear that our property is taken from us.

Ch cake eaters

Gevoel voor rechtvaardigheid is niet anders dan de angst dat ons bezit ons wordt afgenomen. Daarom hebben we diep respect voor de belangen van onze naasten, en vermijden we angstvallig hen schade te berokkenen. Deze angst houdt de mens binnen de grenzen van het bezit dat hem door geboorte of of een speling van het lot is toegevallen; zonder deze angst zou hij voortdurend het bezit van anderen najagen.

39 About the existence of order in an otherwise chaotic world that orients every thing to some orderly behavior and to follow its fate.

Ch order kauffman

Hoe onzeker en chaotisch de wereld zich ook aan ons voordoet, er is toch een zekere geheime samenhang in te ontdekken, een eeuwige orde die is vastgesteld door de Voorzienigheid, die maakt dat elk ding in de pas loopt en zijn eigen bestemming volgt.

45 About the need for a reputation of being retaliatory in the iterated games.

Ch all d

We kunnen alleen dan voortdurend het goed doen, als we anderen ervan kunnen overtuigen dat zij ons nooit ongestraft kwaad kunnen doen.

52 About early sign of the decline of nations (organisations). ?

Weelde en oververfijning zijn de zekere voortekens van staten in verval, want enkelingen die zich alleen om hun eigen belang bekommeren, keren zich af van het algemeen belang.

60 About the need for leadership?

Het verstandigste wat onverstandige mensen kunnen doen is zich aan de juiste leiding van anderen te onderwerpen.

Mafia Culture

Blok, A. . The Mafia of a Sicilian Village, 1860-1960 – A study of violent peasant entrepreneurs . . 1974 . Waveland Press, Inc. . Prospect Heights Illinois . 1988 . ISBN 0-88133-325-5

The idea is that memes are the ideas that replicate: they are the basis for selective pressures. And so once a meme is interesting enough it gets replicated by its host. In this way it is successful and fit. It can’t be said to be useful for the person replicating it or for society in general or for some group in particular. It just happens to be accepted or believed, communicated and replicated and it survives. However the case may be: the memes we encounter today are the products of many years of ‘experience’ and in that sense they already have been selected by the evolutionary forces. Their ancestors have been around in some shape or form, initially basic but ever more sophisticated and competing for human attention, they have been around ever since human beings communicate. In theory those would be the ones providing some evolutionay advantage to their hosts, but there is no need for that. The prevailing memes can be about anything: if they are damaging to their host, they should not be too quick about it. Some examples were given of memes concerning the economic lives of people at this point. They can all be said to be useful for the host up to some point and so to identify their workings, an inventory was made of the memes that must be in play in a traditional sicilian village in the period 1860-1960.

A pivotal characteristic of mafia is the private use of unlicenced violence as a means of control in the public sphere. Many people are involved in it or with it and it is still widespread, but it is not a centralized or single organisation. However the case may be: mafiosi exist and the sum of their actions associated with the use of violence is known as the mafia: mafia exists but The Mafia doesn’t. Mafioso or ‘ntisu (he who is listened to).

The reason why Sicily is ungovernable is that the unhabitants have long ago learned to distrust and neutralize all written laws (alien laws in particular) and to govern themselves in their own rough homemade fashion, as if official institutions did not exist. This arrangement is highly unsatisfactory (the inhabitants themselves endlessly lament their fate) because it cures no ills, in fact makes them worse, promotes injustice and tyranny, leaves crimes unpunished, does not make use of Sicilians’ best qualities, and has kept the country stagnant and backwards in almost every way. It consists of a technique, or art, which is second nature to all Sicilians, both the decent hard-working, honorable Sicilians, and the criminal minority, which includes the Mafia, that of building up one’s personal power, and of acquiring enough power to intimidate or frighten one’s competitors, rivals, or enemies, in order to defend one’s honor and welfare at all times [Barzini 1972: 75-6 in Blok 1988 foreword p xiv].

M1: Distrust the law and any alien forces. Govern thyself.

M2: Defend your honor and welfare. Expand your power to intimidate your competitors and rivals.

The existence of the mafia hinges on a set of economic and political arrangements and so to discover the drivers of its mechanisms is about the locating of the connections between those two elements and the prevalence of private violence.

Fundamental framework of social life: landless / landpoor laborers, rentiers (owners of land) and managers (running the estates and oversee strongarm men hired to protect the property). The managers maintained the rentiers’ incomes from their property and their local power. In return they received liberty to exploit the local workers for their own ends. The landlords used their own private forces to ward off outside interference from rivals and the state and to protect their managers. The produce is to a large extent exported and some level of large-scale organisation is in place and so to label the sicilian society as backwards doesn’t explain the state of afffairs. Blok calls this system rent-capitalism. An important piece of the puzzle is that the laborer spends a lot of time traveling between his job(s) and between his own scattered plots of land (itinerant lifestyle). As a result of this and the insecurity caused by a lack of state control, protection could be offered to the laborer in exchange for a tribute, added to the burdens of direct exploitation (low wages and high leases and taxes). But the population pressure was high enough to keep the wages low and underemployment prevalent, the communication between villages was limited and so the laborers were not in a position to organize themselves, emigration was difficult and protection by the state was limited.

M3: (peasant). Me and my family must survive. Get work at any price wherever and whenever.

The origins of the emergence of the mafia lies in the liberalisation of the lands as a consequence of the dispossessions of the church, breaking up of common lands, abolition of feudal landownings and so on. This lead to the acquiring of large estates and stretches of land by a few bourgeois joining old aristocrat families, preventing farmers joining in and state intervention regarding genuine land reform. ‘The mafiosi were creatures of the landlords; they began as armed retainers, and ended up as exploiters with considerable autonomy‘ [Blok 1988 p. xviii]. ‘While on one hand, mafiosi heightened class tensions though their control over land, they checked open rebellions and sustained revolts in several ways: by force; by keeping a hold on outside influence; by opening avenues for upwardly mobile peasants; and by turning outlaws and bandits into allies‘ [Blok 1988 p. xviii].

M4: (peasant). The security and welfare (and honor) of a mafioso is safeguearded. Get a job as a mafioso.

M5 (peasant) A mafioso is selected because of his outstanding cruelty. Show exceptional cruelty.

The mafiosi are protected by the landlords mightier then them; they in turn have fabricated some agreement of non-intervention with the regional authorities. This system rests on patronage without complete control: in case the national state collapsed then the non-intervention agreement is rendered useless and space opens for other power structures. If the protectors are replaced by the government than the autonomy of the mafiosi decreases and the effect of that for the populace depends on the concrete relative characteristics of the mafia and the state. The amount of force depends on the amount of autonomy that the parties have managed to ssecure for themselves.

The system producing mafia is both cruel and curious. Like governments, the beneficiaries of the system, directly or indirectly, tax the producers of the wealth – the agricultural workers. Like many governments, the system permits each of the operators to scoop some of the proceeds from the flow towards the top. It depends on government to stand far enough away not to interfere with the flow of proceeds, but close enough to assure that neither rivals nor the people at the bottom will block the flow. Unlike most governments, however, the system has no accountability, no visibility, no means of representation for those under its control. So the mafia system is more curious and more cruel than the government itself.’ ‘The murders, thefts and mutilations its operators use to maintain their control- to ‘make themselves respected’-are only the most lurid manifestations of its evil’ [Blok 1988 p xix-xx].

M6 (mafia): the more invisible the less accountable. Remain as little visible and representing as possible.

In that regard, one might imagine a continuum running from anarchy to banditry to mafia to routine government. The defining feature of that continuum is the extent to which control over the use of force is concentrated in a single organization. That implicit continuum connects Blok’s analysis to phenomena far more general than mafia or Sicilian villages. What he calls state-formation, other people have often tried to deal with as ‘political development‘ [Blok 1988 p. xx-xxi].

State-formation is not immanent, unidirectional or a displacement of the traditional by the modern nor universal (namely not historically specific) but it is international (namely occurring in a network of neighbouring or otherwie dependent states). The processes that Blok identified in Sicily are fairly standard State-formation processes: consolidation of the controol of over the use of force, elimination of rivals, formation of coalitions, extension of protection, routinized extraction of resources. Had one mafia network managed to extend its control over Sicily, then it would have been closer to a public rather than a private authority, a State rather than a movement.

Poised between landowning elite and peasants, between city and countryside, and between central government and the village, they sought to control and monopolize the links between these various groups and segments of society‘ [Blok 1988 p. xxviii].

M7 (mafia): There is a profit to be made by exploiting violence in the vacuum between the peasants and the landowners. ??

Land is the basis for social and political life in Genuardo: the majority of the population did not own or have power over suffficient land to live on. The only way to survive is to come to terms to those who do own it or have access to it. This was increased because in the new structure of landownership, the feudo (classical estate) was replaced with the latifondo: the mechanism of the common grounds were now no longer in place and all land was on lease. These lands were part of the rivalry of the existing landownners and the new incumbants. This further impoverished the peasants, because they were now forced to pay a lease for the formerly free of charge commons. The latifondo were large, but their lands were leased out in smaller strips of land to peasant on short term leases. The estate was itself leased out to a gabelloto (leaseholder) who paid a fixed fee per annum or a amministratori (steward) who represents the owner and has an annual income. They are referred to as peasant entrepreneurs because they were of peasant stock and manipulating people and resources for profit.

Who are the entities engaged in this game and what are their tools for thought?

General (a.p. Barzini quote) held belief:

The reason why Sicily is ungovernable is that the unhabitants have long ago learned to distrust and neutralize all written laws (alien laws in particular) and to goven themselves in their own rough homemade fashion, as if official institutions did not exist… It consists of a technique, or art, which is second nature to all Sicilians, both the decent hard-working, honorable Sicilians, and the criminal minority, which includes the Mafia, that of building up one’s personal power, and of acquiring enough power to intimidate or frighten one’s competitors, rivals, or enemies, in order to defend one’s honor and welfare at all times[Barzini 1972: 75-6 in Blok 1988 foreword p xiv]

This orientation of peasants having a relatively high degree of independent control over their land is completely at variance with the attitudes of the dependent peasantry discussed in this book. For them, manual work was and still is looked dow upon, and those engaged in it – the contadini or vidani – are socially degraded‘ [Blok 1988 p48-9].

M8: manual labor is degraded for contadini or vidani. Advancing in the world (civiltà) means absence of manual work. To get a job that is free from manual work is better than a job involving manual work.

To bridge seasonal shortfalls, the peasants received loans from the gabellotti: they left the feudal system to enter a system of indebtedness.

The sharecropper (bringing own equipment ot the estate) was permanently indebted to the gebellotti because of these fees and tributes: 1) ¾ of the crops, 2) verbal contract 3) net / gross measurements when the gebelloto calculated payables and receivables 4) gifts to the gebelloto as tributes for protection to share out to whomever it may concern 5) high interest rates on loans 6) risks on production were with the sharecropper.

1) Peasants and shepherds as seasonal workers during summer and fall. They travel between estates and their own holdings. They need money to sustain their families and they can emigrate with considerable difficulty only. Some of them are retained by the managers as a mafioso or by other mafiosi as a collegue; thus a way up is offered to peasants skilled in violence and in so doing keeping restive peasants in submission. They have a tendency to dislike the land and the work on the land. Also they are looked down upon and seen as degraded: they are seen to have a lack of civiltà (as uncivilized). They are inclined to patriotism, xenophobia and rejection of any central rule.

M9 (peasant): To become a mafiosi means to have honor, no manual labor, more wellfare. Become a mafioso.

2) Land owners: bourgeois and aristocrats as employers and lessors. They live elsewhere, not on the estate. They want an income and no trouble. They retain a manager to manege the estate for them. They broker some agreement between the mafia and the regional governments. Aristocracy and bourgeois had no interest in farming and a didain for manual work. They were interested, apart from the landed status, in power and presige: noble titles via marriage and purchase and local government.

M10 (landowner): A life away from the state in a city is further removed from the business, concrete work, it has more civiltà and so that is to be preferred over a life on the estate. Life in the city, have a manager manage the estate.

3) Managers of the estates as retainers of strong-arm people. They gain an income from the management of the estate as well as from the coercion of low-level workers to work for them at some wage.

M11 (managers, lessees) get a lease of a part of the land on an estate: make a profit while the peasants will do the physical work. Make profit. Squeeze out the sharecroppers for more profit.

4) Mafia consists of peasants retained to enforce the will of the managers on the laborers regarding the interests of the estate and keep others out of the community as retained for strong-arm work. It is born from the tension between the central government and the land owners and the latter and the peasants. Mafia helped manage these related tensions. They move up in the world from low-wage worker (at the wrong end of the stick) to someone with a higher status and a somewhat higher income and more security (the right end of the stick). In exchange for their services protecting the intrests of the state, they are at liberty to raise tributes from the laborers. They are protected by the land owners from outside influences because of their agreements with regional authorities. They developed as entrepreneurs monopolizing the information channels with the outside world so as to keep the population isolated and uninformed. In case of a conflict the enforcement by campieri (private police) is in favour of the party wielding power and influence and incentivizing the executor and so the mafia follows the vested interests [p61]. They earn respect by their application of violent force that inspires awe and their capability to gain access to resources mainly land to their followers; there is competitive pressure on these powerful (and in an awe inspiring way respectful) jobs. Mafia at a higher level of society lends support ot government that is interested to abstain from too much interference in local communities’ businesses. ‘.. the Mafia demanded cmplete subordination, absolute obedience and ‘rispetto’ (respect). This last was even required in exterior forms and was understood particularly as a concretee recognition of the prerogative of ‘immunity’ belonging to the mafioso, not only in his person, but also in everything he had to do with or that he was pleased to take under his protection. In fine, evildoers had to leave the mafioso severely alone, and all the persons or things to which , explicitly or impicitly, he had given a guarantee of security. That is the meaning of the word ‘rispetto’ in this connection‘ [Mori 1933: 69-70 in Blok 1988 p. 146-7]. Damage to the ‘rispetto’ was seen by the mafia as an act of insubordination, an insult, not of material damage.

The means used by mafiosi is violent force. The violence and homicide in mafia circles however wasn’t a sign of social disorder. ‘The use of violence was encouraged and justified, though people were never aimlessly harmed or killed: violence was prescribed in those situations where people sought to get their claims to honor and power ultimately recognized‘ [Blok 1988 p 174].

M12 (mafiosi) When coercing people to do what they want, they make use of their ‘rispetto’. Act rigourously and violently at any inkling of a damage to the rispetto.

5) Regional and national government kept in the loop by the land owners. Some representatives receive a retainer to stay away from the area.

M13 (government representatives) the mafia enforces the law in some locality too insignificant for us. If we allow them that then they do our work for us. They may also help us to collect votes for our political careers. Get aligned witht hem.

6) The group of the bandits includes people that are not a part of the sysem that encompasses the mafia. They are social and so they are tied to other people. Bandits had to rely on protection from above to survive at all. The protection can be from kinsmen up to politicians and if they were not protected then they were hunted down by landlord’s retainers, the police or the peasants. And the more successful as a bandit, the better his protection is. They are important in this context if they assume a retainership for a landlord. That suppresses the peasants resistance in two ways: the bandit opposes it directly and it shows an avenue upward to power and respectability.

M14 (bandits) If you are not protected then will not get old. Get protected: the higher up the more protection.

The peasant movement arose because of: 1) socialist influence in intellectual circles in cities, 2) the draft brought people back to their village with new experiences and perspectives, 3) suffrage for those who cold read and write increased as more people had those skills 4) high emigration rates reduced the chances of revolution and helped traditional resignation.

The approach of the mafia: once a cosco (mafia clique) gets a foothold on an estate as a campieri, a leaseholder or supervisor of herds, they start making attempts to increase their wealth with additional activities: apart from revenues and levies they tried to rustle cattle and sheep.

M15 (mafioso) Any foothold is a start of a larger entrepreneurship. Get a foothold somewhere. Then extend the business.

The mafiosi can then ‘protect’ the cattle from being stolen for a payment. This protection is forced on people through force and violence. At some point the mafiosi felt so strong that they imposed a tribute, not only to peasants but also to landowners.

Once they are in as a campieri, they keep out the petty theft and the cattle rustling but too they are a burden to the manager and to the owner of the estate. Over time, the balance of power between the landowners and the mafiosi tipped to the latter.

Friendship in Italy, as in other mediterranean societies is intrumental rather than emotional. Each member of a dyad (combination of two things) is a sponsor for the other and acts as a potenital connecting link to others outside of the dyad. When they exchange favors they call each other ‘friend’ and they rely on the connotations of intimacy, trust and affection to cover the practical usefulness and sometimes exploitative nature of their interactions. However, if the instrumental element takes the upper hand then the relation is in danger of disruption.The term ‘friendship’ can refer to a relation of patronage in a client supplier relationship and this way can cross class lines.

M16 (all) friendship is instrumental. Get friendly, be useful. Use.

The personal armies in feudal times were different from the mafiosi after that. Similar is the reputation of toughness and very personal connections. The main difference is the social context in which the mafiosi operated versus the institutional context of the feudal henchmen.

Their violence wasn’t formal and therefore illegal from the perspective of the formal authorities; they accepted it for practical reasons. The state failed to monopolize the use of violence.

The mafiosi operated as middle men: they assumed positions of management of the estates and in this way controlled the efforts of the peasants, dependent on the land for the livelihood. They bought estates if they came up for sale, sold the land to peasants at a profit, coerced tributes from them after that and forced them to vote for their candidates in elections, thus brokering political influence. The politicians themselves were often owners of the estates that were managed by the mafiosi striving for a regional or national political position; and in this position they could protect the mafiosi from the law. This is a patron-broker-client network. Now they controlled the environment of the village because they had a control of the people in authority. They were poised between the peasants (were they came from, the so called little tradition) and the State (the big tradition). The relations within and in between the cosci were based on kinship, and in its absence, other similar relations developed.

M17 (mafiosi) work the mafia at all sides to expand the business. Have the peasants pay tributes, have the landowners pay tributes, have the politicians pay for votes.

Within the system of the mafia the younger mafiosi strived to achieve a better position in the hierarchy at the expense of higher ranking and older members. The killing of rival was an important ingredient for that, because of the career opportunities as well as the establishment and reinforcement of the reputation of ‘rispetto’.

M18 (mafiosi) gain ‘rispetto’ by eliminating rivals and have access to more work in the process. Eliminate rivals.

At a village level a small number of families monopolized control over the means of violence, the means of production, and the means of orientation, namely religion, knowledge and ideology.

M19 (mafiosi) Have more control to leave less room for deviations. Control all aspects of village life: the means of religion, violence and production.

Conclusion

Important elements of the rise of the mafia are: the gradual and violent rise of a rural middle stratum, the growing proletarianisation of the peasantry, the obsolescence of certain sectors of the landowning aristocracy.

Omertà: recourse to the legal authorities with regards to private matters is seen as a sign of weakness. It is a strong version of the sentiment that personal insult should be settled by duel to recover lost honor. Maffii psychology indicates many offenses in this category and that should be avenged by personal action or that of relatives or friends.

M20 (mafiosi) guard omertà. Deze is al eerder geweest.

The reign ended or lost momentum when empoyment rose via infrastructure projects, the number of laborers decreased because of emigration overseas and migration to the industrial north of Italy, decrease in competition for local resources (land is less important as a source of power, because people are less attached to land as a source of income) requiring cotrol by violence, and so the bargaining power of the peasants strengthened. Also within the mafia the power shifted away from the local strongmen to influence in the political sphere. As a result violence pays less.

The mafia in Sicily is a ‘mental condition’ pervading everything and all sorts of people on every level. The mafia ended up in the blood, in the most hidden structures of society. Above all, it is to be found in the atavistic distrust of the law and, for that reason, in the disregard of the law, which among Sicilians assumesthe characteristics of an epidemic voluptuousness. It is a mentality harboring in proprietors, peasants, magistrates, local authorities, the police, everywehere. It is impossible to identify, to dissect, to separate the collusion with the mafia. Because, as I have said, it enters in all the houses, though the door as well as through the window. Hence, the omertà, which is fortunately suffering its first flaws, the first cracks…. Do you know that the apparatus of the public forces to maintain law and order in Sicily is the most complete and the most extensive in Italy? But for the mafia it is of no use. As I have said before, it is a mental condition that bewitches, enchants, contaminates – you may choose the appropriate term for yourself – it instills everywhere also in those strongholds, like the Magistracy, that should be unassailable and vaccinated against the mafia‘ [Senator Donato Pafundi President of the Anti-Mafia Commission 1966 in Blok 1988 p. 227-8]. One of the major conclusions of the report of the commission issued in 1972 was that: ‘mafia by its very nature defies any remedy‘. All public bodies are rendered ineffective because all of them to some degree are intertwined with the mafia and their protectors.

Corruption and mafia are inherent elements of societies in a relatively early stage of formation of a nation-state.

What changes should take place that enable people to encourage a positive approach in all public servants or to carry though sharp measures against deviations.’ Attitudes towards the government and involvement in tasks in society on the part of the people who form it will only change with the changes in the society at large. .. It (to see corruption as something which is morally bad DPB) suggests that there are evildoers who can be punished.

We must expect, however, that people who act in particularistic and corrupt ways in not making clear a distinction between public and private affairs have few other options. They are part of societies in which the distribution of power is far more uneven than in certain nation-State societies where people can, quite apart from personal merits, afford to be ‘honest [Blok 1988 p. 229].

Involution means the overdriving of an established form in such a way that it becomes rigid through an overelaboration of detail [Geertz 1963:82 in Blok 1988 p. 83]

alle Begriffe, in denen sich ein ganzer Prozeß semiotisch zusammenfaßt, entziehn sich der Definition; definieerbar ist nur das, was keine Geschichte hat‘ [Friedrich Nietzsche. Zut Genealogie der Moral – Werke, Vol. II. Ed. Karl Schlechta. München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1966 p. 820]

DBC Pierre – Lights Out in Wonderland

This is a selection of some quotes of said author in the above novel. I found this to be useful for the development of my theory on the firm. Importantly in the novel some aspects are pointed out concerning the new relation between individual people and firms. Note that these are quotes from a novel: these can be useful in general and in this case (firm theory) in specific, because some novels have the capacity to shed light on new stuff.

Yes it’s over: profit won the game, but like an infection, killed its host. We were the host. Quality died out because we relinquished the right to filter our own choices; profit became the filter of all choice. Truth died out because we no longer filter true experience; media profit became the filter. The infection found every human receptor, bound to every protein of existence, sucking them dry to feed corporate tumours immunised against us by government. Now the host is a carcass, the market a bacterial enzyme. So adieu!’ [DBC Pierre Lights out in Wonderland fn p. 5]

Ah Customer Service. It falls to Dalí girl to work the gulf between a photograph of a glamour model in a telephone headset and a collections department not based at this address. She squirms because despite efforts to erase her common sense, culture has left a nodule of reason intact. That fragment of tumour makes her uncomfortable enforcing outrageous terms. Her employer should have picked up on that’ [DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland fn p. 8]

David West is an origami person.* Spread, creased, and folded by culture into a clever likeness of a man, a napkin adornment without ideas beyond his own folds, unfolding others to crease then back in his own image’ [DBC Pierre Lights Out In Wonderland p. 15]

Free-market economics is an antiquated, smutty and careless box of tricks whose whimsical main flaw is clear even to a child. Still look how many adults fall breathless with lust to its promise – even though they must abandon empathy and moral judgment to embrace it. Their dirty secret puts all their intelligence to work throwing dust in the air around one glaring truth: that without trickery or eroding value, without extortion, manipulation, deceit or outright theft – profit will simply not perpetually grow’ [DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland fn p. 20].

Remember this: there are no receptors left for cleverness in the public domain. You need never be more than slightly clever or slightly nice. Anything more will arouse suspicion and rage, and confound the software that runs the country. This is because society’s mechanisms are calibrated for stupidity and indolence – and not to be that way is now, by definition, anti-social’ [DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland p. 29].

Stupid nature, which the church led us to admire as a perfect system, has crippled us as it cripples and kills everything through shoddy design’[DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland pp. 31-2].

Capitalism is a limbo. Not a structure but an anti-structure. Driven not towards a defined end, but hovering over a permanent present, harvesting a flow of helpless human impulses. It builds no safe futures, leaves no great structures, prepares no one for roads ahead. And why would it? We don’t march through an age of civilization, but float between Windows and Mac, treading water’[DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland p. 36]

The head of a pharmaceutical company admitted that only thirty percent of drugs work properly on thirty percent of people. And if you observe life you’ll see that he merely identifies the mean threshold of human success in nature. The drug company was a working model of the mathematics of expectation, endeavour, whim and fortune. Therefore abolish the notion of one-hundred-per-cent solutions to touted by culture. According to nature, thirty percent is a windfall’[DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland pp. 43].

And if it was profitable it must be true´ [DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland p. 64].

.. and highlights are the pixels of a life. We’re all witnesses together of the jumping fish, nobody else in the world is. The same pixel is added to each of our lives, ..’[DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland p 79]

It has done this thinking that I am a food writer’ [DBC Pierre Lights Out in Wonderland p 104].

Volgens Ten Bos is Bureaucratie (als een) Inktvis

This is a summary of Ten Bos’s book: ‘Bureacratie is een Inktvis’. The concept of a hyperobject is valuable and was extensively used in my book about the firm.

Characteristics of a bureaucracy are: 1) they have viscosity 2) they are not confined to some location 3) they exist in different time dimensions 4) they are only discernible in phases 5) they are interobjective.

1) viscosity people dealing with bureacracies know these ethical stances: a) groups not individuals are the source of true creativity b) to belong is not a wish but a moral law to which an individual must comply c) to become subject to rationality and science of the collective leads to individual and collective benefit. This ethik is omnipresent in bureaucracies: bureacratic memes.

This is the system by which the business firms are directed and controlled via rules, responsibilities for decisions and their procedures. It also involves the way the company objectives are set, the means of attaining them and the monitoring of them. The focus here is on the relation between the shareholders and the management. Institutions can be seen as bodies of rules forming the environment of markets and organizations where trade-offs take place. The nature of these environments can for instance be economic, political, social, cultural and institutional. The environment provides the conditions for the creation of both coordination mechanisms, for shaping them and providing selection mechanisms evolving both. The environment of organizations and markets consists of rules shaping human interaction safeguarding transactions from any risk explicit to them. In this sense ‘the way the game is played’ is shaped by the cultural institutional environment, which itself is a result of cultural evolution. It is suggested here that this myriad detailed routines, rules and attitudes evolve via human communication from person to person. And in that way that they are capable to generate a finite yet large variation of tentative and experimental beliefs and corresponding decisions and actions for people to exhibit in their professional and private lives alike.

The average counts: to not spend money is good but keeps the collective poor and to spend is sinful but benefits the collective. In that sense mediocracy is a good thing because it benefits the collective and excelling as an invidual damages the collective. As a consequence average performance is beneficial: too much or too big or too deep can never be a good thing. And this hangs in the balance: to not act so as to maximize some things (be a brilliant individual) yet to act so as to maximize other things (consume). Traditional theory of bureaucray states that the person and the position are separate entitities, but starting from the hyperobject theory it becomes clear that this is not possible and bureacracy exists in all of people’s daily activities. The appropriate term for this phenomena is ‘institutionalism’: what is ‘done’and ‘not done’ is institutional and to go against the grain is unprofessional or dilettante behavior. The prototypic and unreliable illustration: monkies associate cold water with some action and institutionalize their action. In this sense people become neophobic: people are very hesitant to engage in something new. Everyone is responsible and no one is accountable; good or bad are annihiliated because everything is proceduralized and everybody is responsible. ‘Nobody really washes her hands clean but everybody washes them together’ [Ten Bos 2015 p. 52].

2) Non locality

In everyday reality we manage to identify objects also using their locality in space and time. In addition we can use speed and acceleration to find out what they are. People are used to observe the world in a three dimensional grid where there a distance between ourselves and other things potentially as well as a difference in speed and acceleration. This is useful for our daily survival but it is also a construct whereby people become separated from their environment, while in fact they are an integrated part of it [Ten Bos 2015 pp 53-4]. Instead of distinguishing people as entities isolated from others and from their environment (the wish to communicate something is the cause of the communication and that the subject is separated from her communication), a better alternative is to understand that individuals are not discrete elements but entangled and very hard to distinguish. This is relevant for people dealing with bureaucracies (bureaucrats) also: the person, her position, the context have become so entangled that they are impossible to distinguish, cause and effect have become indistinguishable. As a conseqence people can act very differently in different locations and at different times: they are driven by outside forces alone and no internal forces. In bureaucratic reality cause and effect have become separate: the process becomes indeterminate. Everything touches everything else, everything is connected: it is an endless sequence of paper, conversation, decision and idea. In that sense bureaucracy is also the denial of singularity and while everbody affects eeverybody else, they are at a distance from each other.

3) Waves

When dealing with hyperobjects the observer has no control over the situation. Bureacracy is the water in which we swim; we don’t know much about it and what we are doing really is survive. This must be clear: this water is often a subtle and often a not quite so subtle form of violence. This violence leads us to the execution of a lot unnecessary work of the kind ‘bulllshit jobs’ [Graeber in Ten Bos 2015 p 59]. People dealing with bureaucracies often do not understand this environment or their positions in it because there is no perspective for their actions. Whatever is written does not conform to what is spoken or what is thought and in a bureaucracy nobody is authentic and everybody is to some extent stupid. This condition of stupidity is relevant in this era of late capitalism.

The pivot is shifting from a correct execution of the tasks belonging to the position, to the correct handling of the administrative tasks that come with the job. ‘This resembles the image of a large ferry boat that, nearly out of control, drives through a sea of drowning people’[ Peter Sloterdijk 1995 pp 13-4 in Ten Bos 2015 p 61]. The expression of emotion does not help, because it is not seen as solidarity and also because to express emotions something concrete to react to is needed. And so as a consequence people tend to feel small in relation to these processes within hyperobjects. The reactions of people between themselves (for example evaluations) are filtered and temporized in relation to their context and so people dealing with hyperobjects tend to be unsure of their performance.

4) Phases

A hyperobject cannot be seen in its entirety but only in parts or in time, as phases. To see it as one the observer would have to ascend to a higher dimension but our senses are limited to the dimensions of the reality they are in. Hyperobjects can appear to not exist for some time but then jump back into view at some point. Hyperobjects are permanently active and never stagnate. Nobody is in control of these processes including the bureaucrats themselves. There is no master mind steering these processes, the machine runs by itself, there is no higher authority. And conversely those considered to be in charge are not effectively in control or to a limited extent. Power is not centralized and can be dispersed in the organization or can even be located at the floor. Often the management has limited power and can not say much for risk of having to execute whatever they have expressed: they also feel observed and controlled. Though hyperobjects are at some times more present or noticeable than at other times, they have a tendency to force themselves to grab the attention. An important characteristic of bureaucracies is testing: once tested, certified or accredited – all procedures to conform to some standard – doors are opnede that were closed before.

This is an automatic absolvent for reflexivity: having entered some test it is no longer required to think about the essence of the thing put to the test, but about the essence of the test itself. People believe that to summarize some tested element by highlighting some issues and ignoring others implies to really understand and to know the element and to identify its causes in an attempt to improve the global performance of some system by tuning the micro-mechanisms. The thought behind this system is to represent reality in the simplest way and to then organize it. And yet, audits and tests are on many occasions no more than an opinion of the person designing the test. And as a consequence the acceptability of the test result depends on the trust that the testee has in the tester. And as a result the selection procedure of the most trustworthy testing agency and not discussion of the facts becomes the main issue for the test. The selection of the testing facility and the testing procedure itself have become the authority for trustworthiness.

The test now provides the certainty much sought after: having achieved the required score the testee feels she can rest assured. But two elements remain unsettling: has the test unveiled facts about the the truth or the testee: what is now known that wasn’t known before the test? And for how long does this last, namely when is the next test due? And so central to the hyperobject is a feeling of stupidity in the individual caused by the object, the bureaucracy in particular. Whenever testing, a bureaucracy looks in a literal way, not at her, but right through the individual in that sense causing a feeling of being stupid and clumsy in the given situation. The proffered support isn’t necessarily useful or helpful and this cannot be known in advance; it is known in advance however that the amount of offered support increases over time.

5) Interobjectivity

The essence is that people can use instruments and means and machines to leave marks that will last for weeks and months and years. These marks are symbols of power: whatever their concrete meaning is, they have the intention to state something and to hold someone to the statement. When the statement isn’t understood then the receiver of the mark pretends that she does understand. Kafka has understood that bureaucracy can be a comedy where everybody pretends to understand what everyone else says and does either or not intentionally. Bureaucracy cannot work if the people are dumb and cannot understand what the written texts say. People need to be enlightened to just the righ level so as to be capable to understand what the bureaucracy requires.

Bureaucracy requires the existence of the tools to register and administrate. The marks of power must remain in existence for some time and the ‘continuity of ink’ supports this. Importantly the objects that surround and pervade bureaucracies also shape the decisions and the communication. These are infrastructural conditions and restrictions that are made available or imposed by the objects that surround people populating bureaucracies.

Individuals exist between private person, her autonomous self, and the official person, her function in a hierarchy, servicing herself as well as the bureaucracy, namely the system that is her environment. ‘This perspective on people as employees sheds light on the concept of hyperobjects also. At this point we begin to understand how the hyperobject not only encompasses people but pervades them’ [Ten Bos 2015 p 112]. The confusion is how people’s wishes to live a normal life as an autonomous human being can be satisfied within the confines of the hyperobject, as often suggested by the human resources manager.