The strong do what they will, the weak do what they must, and the manipulated do what they think they must (which is what the strong or weak will). Manipulation — influencing behavior by altering another’s viewpoint in a manner indifferent to whether or not the alterations are true or desirable — is one of the most important aspects of social conflict and competition. While you may not be interested in manipulation, manipulation is interested in you (though it may disguise this interest beneath layers of dissimulation). In this post I provide a selective overview of the theory and practice of manipulation. Why does this matter? Whether in geopolitics or at home, we must either understand and confront manipulation or be victimized by a Machiavellian Mini-Me.
For my fourth video blog, I bring you a wide-ranging conversation with David Bosshart, CEO of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) in Zurich. I’ve known the folks at GDI for a few years, and worked with them several times. Most recently, GDI undertook the German translation of my Breaking Smart essays.
This conversation is partly me interviewing David about the EU, and partly David interviewing me about the US. We talk about the future of Germany and the EU, Brexit, the rise of the new right, the history of corporatism in the US and EU, the rise of China and India, the future of nations, and various other things. Basically the sort of conversation about globalization and Big History that you can only have with somebody from Switzerland.
If the Germanic world interests you, you may like a recent issue of the breaking smart newsletter, Can the Germanic World Break Smart?
If you happen to be near Switzerland around January 17, you should consider attending GDI’s next conference, The Future of Power. They put on excellent events.
And if you happen to have any German speaking friends or business colleagues, be sure to pass on the German translation of Breaking Smart.
Today’s post is hopefully a bit of a treat for those of you who like audio and video more than text. I’ve updated my You Are Here map for 2016 (thanks Grace Witherell!) and turned it into a narrated video walkthrough. It’s basically about an hour of me talk-walking through a map. If you prefer audio, you can just scan the map to get a sense of it, and then just listen to the audio.
If you’re new to ribbonfarm, this may be a good way to get oriented — or entirely confused. I don’t know. I’m too deep in this thing. The big change in the map from last year’s version is the addition of the whole western 20% or so, and the incorporation of 2016 crazy election year motifs into the landscape. It’s still very US centric, and doesn’t satisfactorily capture some of my newer interests, but it’s a start.
What’s not represented is some of the developing influence of newer residents and their writing on either ribbonfarm or my own thinking. That’s too new, and it’ll probably get folded into next year’s map. So this is mainly me talking about my own interests, with some digressions on Sarah Perry’s stuff.
The narrated walk through was heavily inspired by conversations at Refactor Camp 2016. Here are the links mentioned in the video.
- High-res version of the map (5MB)
- Refactor camp session slide decks: Thanks to Mick Costigan, Megan Lubaszka, Renee DiResta, Jordan Peacock and Sam Penrose.
- Blake Masters’ notes on Peter Thiel’s 2×2
- My gloss on Jane Jacobs Guardian/Commerce
- Economics of Pricelessness
- Hamilton vs Jefferson
- Post on future nausea and manufactured normalcy
- A post on New Horizons
- My extended riff on hedgehog vs. fox
- Bruce Sterling favela chic/gothic high tech talk
- Atlantic post on climate change
- Some stuff on serendipity versus zemblanity
- Sarah Perry’s roundup/introduction on postrationality
- David Chapman, Meaningness
- Sarah’s book Every Cradle is a Grave
- Less Wrong
- Slatestarcodex map
- The Gervais Principle
- Sarah’s theme parks vs amusement parks post
- My post on Crash-only thinking
- Breaking Smart if you’ve been under a rock and don’t know I do that
- The Breaking Smart newsletter in tweetstorm format
- Tempo, the book
- James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
- My Now Reading page with a lot of background
Here’s the pre-read for the third and fourth sessions of Refactor Camp.
For our session tomorrow, Tuesday the 26th on The Weird State of the Crowd, we are running a bit behind, so have a partial pre-read for you in the form of this short summary document on Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power. The session will be led by Renee DiResta and Megan Lubaszka. I’ll add the summary deck, which will also cover Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer, to this post, once I have it. Apologies for the delay.
Update: the slides are in!
And for our final session on Thursday the 28th, which will attempt pull it all together via the capstone theme, Weird State of the Planet, here is the slide deck. This session will be led by Jordan Peacock and Sam Penrose.
This is the slide-deck for the first session of Refactor Camp 2016, on Tuesday the 19th. If you’re attending, please make sure to carve out at least 45 minutes beforehand to review this.
Since 2012, we’ve been holding Refactor Camp as an annual offline event in the Bay Area. This year, we’re trying a new format. Refactor Camp 2016 will be an online-only event, in the form of four 2-hour evening sessions, spread over the last 2 weeks of July. You can register here. We will be using the Zoom videoconference system, which has a limit of 50 participants.
The theme this year is Weird Political Economy (tagline is inspired by this great post). Over four sessions, each structured as a short introductory talk (~30 minutes) followed by a discussion (~90 minutes) we will cover four major themes. All 4 sessions will be 8:00 to 10:00 PM US Pacific Time, on the listed dates.
Session #1: Tue July 19: The Weird State of the State (Venkatesh Rao)
Session #2: Thu July 21: The Weird State of Capitalism (Mick Costigan)
Session #3: Tue July 26: The Weird State of the Crowd (Megan Lubaszka and Renee DiResta)
Session #4: Thursday July 28: The Weird State of the Earth (Jordan Peacock and Sam Penrose)
The idea is to have well-prepped discussions about the general sense that “things are getting weird” in global affairs with a meaningfully broad/rich context. Are we really not in Kansas anymore, or do we just lack the context to grok the patterns in things going on right now? Is it time to apply the principle, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”? Hopefully we’ll generate some interesting, situated thinking.
The four session topics: state, capitalism, crowds, and earth, will hopefully serve as four good overlapping global canvasses for discussion.
A slide deck overview of the theme will be posted a few days before each session, as required pre-read. The idea is for ALL participants to actually review these pre-read decks (should take maybe 30min each) so we can have a discussion where everybody is better prepared than usual in these sorts of symposia.
If you are interested in doing reading beyond these upcoming decks, here are some anchor references the session leaders will be using. Though session leaders will be drawing on multiple sources, and we expect many participants will be coming from other perspectives, these should give you an idea of the level of discussion we’re hoping to hit.
- Session 1: Francis Fukuyama’s two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay.
- Session 2: Joyce Appleby’s The Relentless Revolution and Power and Plenty by Ronald Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke.
- Session 3: Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer and Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power
- Session 4: Paul Krutzen and Eugene Stoermer, The “Anthropocene” (page 17-18) and Justin Gerder, Quitting Carbon.
I’ve lately become interested in the question of climate change from the perspective of the scale of organizational capabilities that are emerging globally to tackle it (a question that exists and matters whether or not you believe climate change is real). I came up with this conceptual graph to think about it. I’ll explain my capability measure c in a minute.
In some ways, “dealing with climate change” is the largest, most complex collective action ever contemplated by humans. Here I don’t mean collective action in the leftist sense of a political coalition based on egalitarianism and solidarity. I mean any kind of large-scale action involving coordination (not getting in each other’s way), cooperation (not working at cross-purposes), collaboration (combining efforts intelligently) and conflict (structured adversarial interactions encompassed by the system to allow net action to emerge from a set of warring ideologies), in a politically neutral sense. Everything from weaponized sacredness (think the Pope’s statements on climate change) to war and unmanaged refugee crises can fit into this broad definition, but as I’ll argue, it’s not so broad as to be useless.
So the definition includes everything from the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China to the Normandy landings in WW II, the building of Standard Oil, the modern bond market, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Historically, the “peak-load capabilities” of our biggest collective action systems have been expanding steadily, modulo some ups and downs in the interstices of imperial ages, since the Neolithic revolution and the first pot-sized granary.
The interesting question is, what are those “some ways” in which a response to climate change futures is unprecedented, and what does that imply for the likelihood of it succeeding?
A useful way to focus this question is to ask what is the largest collective action, ever, and how much of a stretch are we talking to respond to (say) a speculative 2-degree rise scenario?
Sarah Perry is a contributing editor of Ribbonfarm.
Disneyland is the most important place in America, and Frontierland is the most important part of Disneyland. By area, it is the largest part of Disneyland. The design of Frontierland occupied a special importance for Walt Disney himself (Richard Francaviglia, Walt Disney’s Frontierland as an Allegorical Map of the American West). Even as the Imagineers had trouble keeping the futuristic buildings of Tommorowland looking “futuristic,” the archaic appeal of Frontierland never faded. Frontierland does not refer to just any frontier: it presents an immersive narrative about the American western frontier, a narrative centered on popular myth and literature. (There is no American Indian genocide in Frontierland, because Frontierland is not about the historical reality of the American frontier.) But its appeal reaches far beyond the American West, drawing visitors from all over the world and self-replicating in Japan, Hong Kong, and France. As the American frontier ceased to exist as a geographic and political reality, in myth it transcended space and culture.
As much as it is composed of myth, theater, and simulation, Frontierland is actually the real frontier.
Sarah Perry is a contributing editor of Ribbonfarm.
This essay attempts to place ritual in the context of evolving complex systems, and to offer an explanation for why everything is so ugly and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.
On Boundaries and Their Permeability
Boundaries are an inherent, universal feature of complex systems. Boundaries arise at all scales, defining the entities that they surround and protecting them from some kinds of outside intrusion. To be functional, boundaries must be permeable, allowing the entities to take energy and information from outside themselves. If we are looking at complex systems, we will find boundaries everywhere.
I recently spent a month playing a board game called Diplomacy, and it turned out to be a surprisingly mind-broadening experience. Pretending to be the German Empire before the First World War, exchanging missives all day with the other “great powers” of that time, finalizing troop dispositions before the daily deadline, and then seeing everybody’s moves revealed at once, finding out who lied, who was betrayed, it’s all very dramatic and addictive. It took me a while to realize (rationalize?) why its hold over me was so persistent: it was because it was getting me to grow intellectually as only a few other games have done in my life. Chess taught me to think “a few moves ahead” past the immediate exigencies of any situation. Poker taught me to manage risk when the future is uncertain. Diplomacy is starting to teach me to extend these ideas past the “kiddie pool” of games where you’re playing against coherent opponents. It repeatedly exposes one, like a school of hard knocks, to stable situations that are rendered unstable by the entrance of a new player.
There’s a faint echo of this effect in the chess-like two-player game of Go.
Learning Go, you repeatedly find yourself in situations that seemed stable, where you were holding your own, that are thrown into disarray by distant parts of the board.