“Corporantia: Is moral consciousness above individual brains/robots?” has been peer-reviewed and published in Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics. It is open access, so you can click here to read it.
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While many other consumer electronics designers were inviting customers to help co-create new technologies, Steve Jobs famously advanced the philosophy of elite design: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
He didn’t say, “So close that you can tell them what they need…” If you know what your customers need better than they do, then Jobs recommended giving them no other option. Rather than sell people what they think they need, he recommended selling them only the best.
To clarify: The concept of elite design starts with the worldview that people ultimately face some real nature beyond their fantasies such that designs which better align with that real nature really are better, even if they align less-well with customers’ fantasies. In other words, goodness is not merely a matter of opinion, so the customer is not always right. Some people will be better at design than others because they have greater talent and/or experience, and inviting customers to design their own world will not be as good as having these elite designers design it for them. Inferior designs should not be implemented, even if most customers would be willing to pay for them or the majority of the electorate would vote for them—in short, elitism leaves serious problems of political philosophy open.
But those problems are for another article—this article focuses on interpersonal issues. When some designers participate in (what they perceive to be) inferior design, they experience anxiety strong enough to prevent them from thinking straight. Their response may range from rage to withdrawal. A similar response should prevent people from committing crimes—a bell-in-the-mind should warn “This is wrong!” and should be so distracting that crime cannot continue. Such bells can cause people to obsess over grammar errors, errors of calculation, errors of logic, factual errors, moral errors, or missed opportunities to improve quality. Whether we criticize the people who experience such anxiety for lacking flexibility or praise them for having conscience, the bottom line is that their interpersonal relationships must accommodate their special anxiety.
This may sound all well and good when dealing with engineers of iPhones, computer systems, skyscrapers, rockets, or movies, but the special accommodation seems more burdensome when dealing with social engineering. We expect to be able to co-design our nation, our church, our family and especially our marriage. When someone insists on his/her own designs for society, we call him/her a “narcissist.” Some of us avoid such people; some apply special rules and boundaries to such people as though dealing with a child; some sacrifice their own mental health to stay in the relationship.
Is there no other way to treat such people? Is there no hope of healthy social relationship with elite social designers?
Notice that we are not necessarily talking about accommodating people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. We are talking about accommodating people who do not recognize what we consider to be our rights, whether that is because the person has narcissistic personality disorder or because that person is simply immature or because that person is gifted (or any combination of causes). Our inability to have healthy relationships with people we call “narcissist” is something we need to address, regardless of whether we correctly diagnose those people or not.
What is at stake in facing this challenge of interpersonal-skills?
Corporantia are people who form into a body. Not a mere colony, but a body. That means relinquishing independence to accept an assigned role in a shared design for social functioning, much as neurons accept the role of neuron and bone cells accept the role of bone. Cells are not all invited to modify the design of the body, and any co-creation that ever occurred to produce the design in the first place surely occurred long before the parts differentiated. Thus, the corporantia rely on elite social design.
For example, although the tagline of the GRINfree.com website is “How to let people be themselves,” it does not describe processes by which people express their own fantasies of who they ought to be. Rather, it explores evidence of a real world beyond our invention—it invites people to discover their nature, rather than invent it. Much like a narcissist doubting the competence of his or her victims, the website even explores evidence of common human biases (e.g. evaluativism and anthropomorphism) which may justify delegation of design to elite experts. One could uncharitably rephrase the tagline as “How to save people from their lack of self-awareness.”
To be fair, much social science—not just that of corporantia—will ultimately have to defend itself against the accusation of narcissism. When the Church says, “You have to take it on faith,” Science shuts down. “I cannot be myself and ignore evidence,” says Science, echoing the narcissist who complains, “I cannot be myself and accept inferior designs.” The response from the Church is to stigmatize Science and set boundaries on it, letting Science address questions of medicine and physical engineering, but dismissing scientific analysis of the mechanisms that generate our beliefs about morality and the divine. Ever since Galileo, the Church has refused a healthy relationship with certain areas of Science, especially moral psychology.
Social scientists need to understand this: Whether scientists happen to be narcissists or not, the Church will treat certain science as narcissism. This relationship problem could even stem from flaws in the person who claims to be the victim:
In short, “narcissistic” is a term that applies better to relationships than to individuals because both sides can take blame and because it might be beyond the ability of either side alone to solve the relationship problem. It is not enough for social scientists and the corporantia to work on their own psychology. Neither would it help to persecute those who embrace faith—if we need elite designers, then we need for the people who are not elite designers to have faith in designs that are not their own. The solution needs to be social engineering, rather than psychological treatment.
What is the solution?
Star Trek’s “Borg” supposedly solved the interpersonal-relationship challenge of narcissism by shackling each brain to a computer that would force each person to accept assigned roles with humility. That might not work in reality—it might even destroy the very diversity that the Borg aimed to “asymilate.” The case of Steve Jobs points towards a more practical solution:
Whether Steve Jobs was an actual narcissist or not, he did have interpersonal relationship issues associated with narcissism, yet those issues did not block his designs from changing our world. Both of the mechanisms which allowed him to circumvent the relationship issue involved layers of intermediaries.
First, there were layers of people. Most complaints about Jobs’ personality were made by people who dealt with him directly. The rest of us might have believed that Jobs was a narcissist, but we did not complain about it because we did not deal with Jobs directly. We dealt with Apple as a company or with a particular Apple salesperson or even with a competing company that copied aspects of Jobs’ design.
Of course, some people did need to deal with Jobs directly, so some people did need special relationship skills. The people who can surround an elite designer are their own kind of elite. When the rest of us were frustrated with the designs being imposed on us (by Apple or its followers), our complaints to the people we dealt with directly were diffused by making Jobs the scapegoat. “What can we do?” they said, “Jobs has all the control!”
One might imagine the corporantia would be like the Apple Company as a whole. It would take a large group of people to change the world, but only a few members of that group need take the blame. Effective social change may even require someone to embrace the reputation of a narcissist in order to direct blame away from the rest of the corporantia, thus empowering the group as a whole to overcome the interpersonal relationship challenge.
The second kind of layer of intermediaries was norms. People were more likely to dispute Jobs’ designs before they became normal. Today, some young people complain about never experiencing a world without the pressure smartphones have brought them to make themselves available to their friends at a moment’s notice, but this frustration is not perceived as an interpersonal problem with Jobs or Apple. Rather than identify as victims of narcissism, these young people identify as victims of dogma or of “The Machine.”
Similarly, the work of the corporantia can be built up over the course of generations by building up norms. For example, the last couple hundred years have established the norms of change, health science, and management of diversity. The designs of the corporantia would have seemed far more objectionable before those norms were established. It may seem nefarious—like addicting a customer to powerful drugs by starting with gateway drugs—but cumulative shifts in social norms may be necessary to address the interpersonal problem, and therefore necessary to accomplish certain worthwhile social changes.
You might think that the greatest challenge facing corporantia is to figure-out the natural design for how all the parts of society should work together. But following the Steve Jobs metaphor, consider what actually turned-out to be the greatest obstacles to achieving his ultimate goal of ubiquitous computing.
Jobs and many others knew that ubiquitous computing must mostly be housed in site-based hardware like smart homes, smart offices, smart ships, and smart cars (that’s the only way to be able to be everywhere at once), and that carried devices will be justifiable only if they permit us to communicate more intimately with our computer agents (as with Google Glass or computer-brain interfaces). Discovering that natural design for ubiquitous computing—which notably does not include smartphones—was easy compared to figuring-out how to get from here to there. Who would guess that the path to ubiquitous computing would start with payphones, which would be obsolesced by cell phones, which would be obsolesced by smartphones, which would be obsolesced by…?
Smartphones cannot have any natural design because it is clearly natural for them to be obsolesced. Smartphones are merely an intermediary step, a fad designed at whim to nudge us closer to ubiquitous computing. There might even have been a possible path that never included smartphones at all. Similarly, we should expect the advance of the corporantia to require intermediary steps for which many design decisions must be arbitrary: Some elite will need to take power and make indefensible decisions that rightly inspire criticism and interpersonal difficulty.
Jobs managed his interpersonal relationship challenges such that most of us did not identify as victims of narcissism, but his tactics boiled-down to spin-doctoring. Perhaps “narcissism” is a bad word for what oppresses us—perhaps it would be more accurate to claim we are victims of a world so imperfect that manipulation is the only way forward—but we do and will need to continue suffering unjustifiable inequality.
Instruments which categorize people into types are typically accompanied by advice about how to use them to select mates and employment. This article discusses such implications of evidence supporting the GRIN self-quiz.
Marriage and employment are related because, as one college textbook says,
“A government program that seeks to improve relationships would probably do better to fund effective training for better jobs or to increase the minimum wage than to try to teach people to respect marriage.”
Rowland S Miller. Intimate Relationships. 7th Edition (2015), page 62.
This passage of the textbook specifically criticizes application of moral education to address especially poor marital and divorce rates among African Americans. The author points out that African Americans already value marriage, but face greater economic pressure on average, and cites evidence that few people (African American or not) marry or stay married to someone with financial problems.
The currently leading theory to predict who will marry and who will divorce is called “interdependence theory” and essentially describes an economic negotiation. You can expect to keep your spouse if the value he/she gets from your marriage less the cost of being in it is greater than the value-less-cost available in alternative relationships. This implies that staying married is like holding down a job: perform or be fired!
My government legally defines marriage as an economic contract, but this article will instead use the term “marriage” to refer to something that existed long before law or contracts: the fundamental unit of interdependence. Even before law or contract, this unit was a unit of employment. Back then, all businesses were family businesses, and marriage was one of three ways to join a business—the other ways were to be adopted or born into the family.
While African Americans may be especially hard hit, problems with marriage today are broad. People are waiting longer to get married, getting divorced more often, and more are never marrying at all. In 2012, 41% of babies were born out of wedlock (eight times the percentage fifty years earlier). We have hit the point at which over half of all adults are now unmarried. This article will argue that these trends stem from shifts in business practices, rather than from shifts in family values.
Economic Interdependence vs Evolved Interdependence
“Interdependence theory” is an unfortunate choice of name because it equates all interdependence with economic interdependence. Actually, economic interdependence is far weaker than the evolved interdependence we observe between, for example, the parts of a body.
If one member of a choir, team, family or business is lost, a replacement is needed to fill his/her role as bass, keeper (goalie), mother or manager (etc.). That necessity reflects an evolved interdependence like the interdependence between parts of a body; it is not some economic bargain one can intelligently renegotiate. However, this kind of interdependence does not bind the choir, team, family or business to any particular individual. Only economic interdependence—the fear that no better bass, keeper, mother or manager can be obtained—gives negotiating power to specific individuals.
To confuse the two kinds of interdependence creates a “moral relativism” debate. The goodness of an economic interdependence is relative to specific people—is the marriage good for these particular spouses? In contrast, the goodness of an evolved interdependence is universal—is the marriage a good pattern for arbitrary others to imitate? If we think economic interdependence is the only kind of interdependence there is, then morality will seem relative.
My own wedding vows prioritized evolved interdependence over economic interdependence: “I choose you as God’s perfect wife for me,” I said, “accepting on faith that I shall never stop learning to appreciate the amazing gift our perfect creator made you to be.” In other words, I expect to underestimate the value of my marriage, and therefore to be unqualified to negotiate a better economic deal. The article will discuss evidence in support of that hypothesis, but also that the pattern of marriage good for imitation is not mere coupling…
This article is not about economic interdependence nor any particular marriage; it is about evolved interdependence. It is about the ultimate nature of marriage. Thus, I can support whatever marital choices my children happen to make, and still seriously acknowledge the evidence discussed here. I can love my children with blatant favoritism, yet acknowledge that universally correct laws don’t necessarily favor my children nor their perspectives on marriage.
What the GRIN Model Implies
The GRIN model tells us that each society’s success depends upon its rate of learning and that societies learn fastest when their members specialize in different aspects of learning: Gadflies specialize in producing new ideas, negotiators specialize in objectively selecting among ideas, and institutional evaluators specialize in preserving selected ideas. These three specializations are like stages in a digestive track (processing innovation instead of food).
Relational evaluators are needed because new ideas typically emerge half-baked and would get rejected by good negotiators unless incubated by people who select ideas subjectively (e.g. “through the eyes of love”). One could think of relational evaluators as a buffer between gadflies and negotiators, but subjective evaluation really connect all kinds of people, like a skeleton or circulatory system connects all other parts of a body.
The first thing this model tells us about marriage is that the basic unit of interdependence increases our collective intelligence. Thus, laws which set up each individual to decide for him/herself whom to marry and when (and if/when to divorce) are vesting power in the less-intelligent entity. At the heart of the decline in marriage are laws which give more individuals the option to avoid interdependence (to avoid marriage and to reduce interdependence in employment); these laws essentially enable societies to reduce their intelligence.
Is it possible to have a right to reduce one’s intelligence? The question poses a paradox because we do not count a behavior as freely chosen unless it is selected with sufficient intelligence. Interdependence theory may be correct that individuals get married and divorced based on their own personal economic judgments, but evidence for the GRIN model suggests that individuals are poorly-equipped to make such judgments accurately. It is a provocative possibility.
The second implication of the GRIN model is that the evolved fundamental unit of interdependence requires a lot more than just two adults. Just like (divine) evolution designed bodies to involve cells of each type, it designed families to involve adults of each type. Can you imagine cells trying to live as mere pairs…one skin cell and one neuron setting-out to grow old together? Cells need to have pairwise relationships, but those relationships must be part of an entire network.
Marriage will likewise fail to facilitate evolved interdependence if it is mere coupling. If all children go separate ways upon reaching adulthood, such that marriage is ultimately just two adults, then the value of marriage reduces to its non-interdependence aspects. Marriage adds little to the raising of children if parents have sufficient community support. Neither is marriage necessary for sex or companionship. It is no wonder marriage rates decline as the extended family falls apart.
One might hope to find evolved interdependence via employment instead of marriage, but modern corporations do not preserve the function of relational evaluators, which is to maintain a non-centralized network by forming small numbers of emotional attachments. For example, a relational evaluator might bond with a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a spouse, a son and a daughter. Collectively, relational evaluators can thus divide billions of people into many relatively small families with somewhat divergent priorities. Modern corporations deny relational employees this power, instead enabling central leaders to set priorities for all employees, and that makes modern corporations fragile against challenges that require leaps of faith.
The last few centuries of social engineering separated marriage from employment, leaving social collaboration to be grounded at two new group sizes: couples and corporations. It is provocative to consider that neither of these new grounds might be viable for the long-term.
The third major implication of the GRIN model concerns matchmaking. Most models that divide people into types paint a picture in which each person has a roughly equal set of types with whom to mate. In contrast, the GRIN model tells us that naturally relational people match with anyone, but gadflies (which correlate strongly with psychopathy) cannot effectively link to interdependence through any other type—not even through another gadfly.
If marriage were just about coupling, then institutional evaluators might seem to be the second most flexible, since they could link to interdependence through any type but gadfly. However, only a marriage that includes a relational evaluator can accommodate a gadfly child, so relational evaluators are the best matches even for institutional evaluators. Is it possible that marriage is not a symmetric responsibility shared equally by all, but rather is the function of one type of person who bonds the rest together?
Again, the possibility is provocative: The prospect of assigning employees to form emotional attachments to specific other employees raises concerns about abuse. Arranged marriage and family business may be less prevalent today precisely because of damage caused by spousal abuse and familial abuse. We need to measure the value of interdependence to make sure it really is worth this risk.
Ideal Family Size
Negotiators are supposed to take control, and thus horde resources; that benefits society by allowing resources to mobilize, but it won’t feel supportive to a spouse. Gadflies and institutional evaluators are supposed to create the threat of guilt and shame; again, that benefits society, but it won’t feel supportive. Relational evaluators are the only ones who can honestly offer relationships that feel supportive to the other person. Such relationships would be asymmetric to other GRIN-types, so we will represent them here by arrows (pointing at relational evaluators).
For GRIN dynamics to work robustly, the organization of the social body must satisfy several criteria:
These criteria create a puzzle. In order to satisfy #5, an organization must include at least two evaluators of each type. In order to satisfy #3, #4 and #5 together, there must be at least two relational evaluators per gadfly. This gives us a minimum of ten adult evaluators. The following example would be one solution, assuming #2 is satisfied with chains of length two, and #6 is satisfied if a maximum of three arrows point to any evaluator:
Evaluators are allowed to have relationships beyond those pictured in the org chart (for example, one might expect additional relationships between negotiators and institutional evaluators); organizational charts show only the essential relationships necessary to satisfy the criteria. On the other hand, the localization this geometry achieves would be undermined if too many evaluators became too influenced through a central authority such as Wikipedia or a large-scale vote. High-quality relationships must take priority. Any of the connections in this chart could be marriage, but any could also be adoption, sibling relationship, etc. In the solution above, institutional evaluators are the only individuals who could marry into the network through the creation of a single supporting relationship. The other three types would need polygamy, incest, or adoption by in-laws.
There is a less expensive way to join the network. The example solution is composed of two identical configurations, one on the left and the other on the right. Shifting such a configuration as a whole from one network to another, or to another location in the same network, would not require any individual evaluator to take responsibility for more than one new supporting relationship.
We will call any such configuration a “family.” Monogamy makes more sense if limited to relationships that bridge families, since relationship between families does not require any individual to manage more than one (new) emotional attachment. The suggestion that one should be emotionally attached to no more than one parent, sibling or child makes less sense. Polygamy would then be unnecessary so long as each family maintains sufficiently many of these internal emotional attachments.
To grow a new family, one would start by adding its mature relational evaluators into an existing network. The mature relational evaluators might be called the “parents” or “teachers”, but the entire surrounding network invests in the new family; authority to judge and discipline would go to negotiators and institutional evaluators. One would add or develop a full generation of five non-parents (lower-case in the figure) attached to the parents as below:
The size of a family in reproduction would be at least seven: two parents and five non-parents. Once complete and mature (which might be faster if assembling a family from polygamous adults or machines), the family can be transplanted as a productive unit. If the original relational adults are teachers, then they are the kind who emotionally attach with their students, and move with them into the real world when they graduate. The relational students/non-parents may position themselves as back-ups for their teachers/parents or could split-off individually (or with any extra siblings) to build other new families.
Another example shows that increasing the family size from five adults to six (and nine total evaluators at reproduction) allows a situation in which the loss of any individual evaluator can be repaired without creating more than two supporting relationships (criteria #3 entails that no configuration can do better):
In this example, the three relational adults in each family connect with other families at three points, so the loops/chains formed by families of this type can assemble into mesh as in the organizational chart at the top of this article (offering the possibility of emergent higher-intelligence as in cellular automata). Each loop of twelve or more evaluators (eighteen in the hexagonal mesh) might be called a “super-family” because it can relocate without any new asymmetric bonding at all. Larger mesh may be necessary to develop solutions to larger challenges like climate change, pandemic, and nuclear war.
All of these examples rest in the assumption that a social architect is able to identify each evaluator’s type and assign his/her position in the network. Historically, that has not always been the case, but that’s less of a problem because early stages of differentiation are generally accompanied by hermaphroditism; GRIN-hermaphrodites would be evaluators who change GRIN-type like stem-cells change cell-type. Substituting GRIN-hermaphrodites for specialized evaluators makes any solution more robust against failure to control assignment, but the same arguments about family size and structure hold.
If population frequencies evolved to match the models above, 40%-50% of people would be naturally relational (or GRIN-hermaphrodite) and organizing adults into mere couples would leave 50%-60% of all adults feeling unsupported. That would produce envy. Like people who engage in diet and exercise to achieve the body shape of someone who came by the desired body shape without so much effort, people who are not naturally relational would find their mates attempting to transform them against their nature using complaints, threats, bribes, manipulation, religion, counseling, and self-help books (etc.)…
Meanwhile, naturally relational employees would be challenged by life-work balance. They instinctively invest in each of their emotional attachments as though participating in GRIN-dynamic, but the more emotional energy they waste on home-families that have become too small to manifest evolved interdependence, the less they can invest to support real interdependence. The result for society would be equivalent to scarcity of relational evaluators: No matter how many gadflies it hired, the average business would experience the fragility of dogmatism.
An effective solution requires substantial family size, but current business practice is to hire and relocate individuals. That makes it difficult to maintain larger families. Perhaps one adult can sacrifice his/her current employment to follow a spouse (or other family member) to a new location, but it would be unreasonable to expect four adults to change jobs for the sake of a fifth.
It would be easier if businesses hired entire families—like consulting teams—instead of hiring individuals. Assuming businesses seek to manifest evolved interdependence themselves, hiring and relocating entire families of five or six adults would be more efficient for them too.
One major obstacle businesses would face in hiring families would be determining who pays the costs of reproduction. Reproduction can be a long-term investment; families are not very useful until mature and attached. It would be unfair if company A were to hire a newly mature family raised by company B before B could recoup its investment. Perhaps reproduction could be subsidized through taxes collected from the entire society.
It has been said that marriage takes hard work; the GRIN-model implies that this work is harder for some people than for others. It implies that emotional attachment is an evolved feature of humanity and that its function is not merely to make us feel good nor is it limited to reproductive purposes—its function is to increase our collective intelligence. Emotional attachments with difficult people are important in fulfilling this function, so optimizing marriage is expensive and deserves planning and protection.
That’s a tough pill to swallow for a society built around the expectation that love is natural or magical and not a subject for science and engineering. When everyone is expecting to have two kids, it’s tough to suggest that most of us should never be parents (i.e. provide emotional attachment), and that the rest should raise at least five or six children. Especially when so many people consider their families dysfunctional, it’s tough to suggest that siblings should apply for employment as a team rather than as independent agents.
Show a GRIN org chart to a modern business manager, and she is likely to say, “That’s too complicated. Even if it happens to be correct, you won’t see me implementing anything like that!” Many people have never bothered considering the possibility that two adults may be too few for marriage, or the possibility that there is a specialized type of person that should be involved in every marriage, or the possibility that keeping emotional bonding out of the workplace ultimately spells the doom of business.
It would have been easier to consider these possibilities thousands of years ago, when family-businesses and large families were commonplace. Now, shall we treat these possibilities as science-fiction which has the quality of fantasy, even if likely to be true?
Thus far, the evidence is consistent with the GRIN model:
Furthermore, we have seen what hierarchical organization brings: segregation not only into management vs labor, but the isolation of think-tanks, monasteries, churches, prisons, etc. Segregation may seem promising at first, but the advantages we have witnessed have been limited to the short-term, being counterproductive in the long-run. GRIN organization provides an alternative to segregation.
Like climate change theories, the GRIN model could be formally tested through controlled experiments and/or well-designed monitoring programs. But who would organize such investigation? Perhaps the better use for evidence which supports the GRIN model is to refine the model for use in fiction. Perhaps there is a market for stories about using science and engineering to provide almost all people with satisfying marriages, families and careers.
For example, in the beloved parable of the prodigal son, women apparently have no power, thus leaving a family business size of only three: a negotiator, his institutional brother, and their relational father. The negotiator eliminates their economic interdependence by negotiating personal ownership, then sets-off on his own. His ability to do this demonstrates the weakness of a mere relational-institutional couple and we expect them to be destroyed by the next slick negotiator to come along, but fortunately the prodigal son hits bad luck and returns first. The value of relational evaluation is shown at this point, because the father contributes no significant assets or labor, but it is his emotional attachments to his sons that save the business. Similar parables could be constructed to demonstrate the likely doom of other inadequate organizational structures.
“Corporantia” is an ancient Latin word that refers to entities which form into a body. Like the word “intelligentia,” it can refer to a subset of society. For you and I to be corporantia would mean that we form into interdependent social bodies. Not all social organizations embrace interdependence, so being corporantia would amount to embracing certain political and/or economic systems. But which systems? Capitalism? Socialism? Democracy? Dictatorship? Are corporantia aligned with liberals? Are they aligned with conservatives? Are they aligned with the United States? Are they aligned with Microsoft?
The purpose of this article is to explicate the political and economic philosophy of corporantia. Many subsets of society are defined by comparison to founders−as examples, Americans are defined by comparison to the signers of the U.S. Constitution and Christians are defined by comparison to Christ and His apostles−but that is not the case for corporantia. The political and economic philosophy of corporantia has a range, much as “plants” include a range of species many of which have yet to be discovered. The first part of this article will examine multiple examples and consider what they have in common.
The second part of this article will contrast the political and economic philosophy of corporantia with well-known political and economic philosophies. If you are interested in social philosophies, then it is valuable to identify the best. Everyone should be interested in social philosophies because life lacks purpose if it does not support societies built around the right philosophies.
Examples of Corporantia
More than three examples of corporantia may be possible, but only three will be discussed here. The first goes by the name “family values.” The thinking here is that we were designed−whether divinely, through evolution, or both−for a world lacking social institutions larger than a family. In that world, the family was the employer, the school, the religion, and the government. People were so completely shackled to their biological families that they could not afford to discard any member. That set a limit on the level of within-family oppression that could be sustained. Thus, the members of a family were interdependent like the parts of a body.
Larger social institutions empower individuals to escape the forced-interdependence of families, so defense of family-values corporantia requires limiting or eliminating social institutions larger than a family. Family-values corporantia favor family businesses, home schooling, home churches, and limited government. Rather than call the politics and economy within a family “socialistic,” “capitalistic,” “democratic” or “dictatorial,” we might call it “informal.” In general, the ruling members of an interdependent family are not elected, and may teach discipline by temporarily withholding basic needs like food and shelter, but are practically forced to value all members.
The contrasting examples of corporantia discussed here both go by the name “science.” In these examples, interdependence is not forced, so it must be sold, and science provides the sales pitch. Instead of eliminating large institutions, science corporantia aim to reform them to handle large challenges like climate change and pandemic. They raise up a master institution of science to potentially intervene in all businesses, schools, religious groups, and governments the way an ecosystem manager intervenes in ecosystems.
Like families, the systems promoted by science corporantia would have some informality because the master institution would intervene only so far as the total system falls outside certain thresholds of social health. However, unlike families, this system needn’t cherish each individual member−science corporantia could discard some individuals much the way ecosystem managers discard invasive species. The power to do that could be frightening, except that the master institution, like medical doctors, is supposedly bound to objective methods of decision-making. Scientific authorities are not elected; they are supposedly selected on the basis of natural ability, measured objectively.
Science has not yet achieved the objectivity it is supposed to achieve−at least not in the social sciences. Even though science is well-known to advance from its fringe, mainstream science rejects the fringe without even testing it (and perhaps without understanding how to test it). Such undesirable politics of science can be traced to issues with credentialing, tenure, and peer-reviewed publication, activities theoretically unnecessary to science but which have proven necessary in practice.
Failure to launch objective science divides science corporantia into two types: 1) intrapreneurs who seek to reform science from within through education and discussion vs. 2) entrepreneurs who attempt to topple the institution of science from without by developing new technologies which will ultimately reshape science. For example, consider how the rise of the Internet has opened publishing to uncredentialed scientists.
These three examples of corporantia might seem at odds with each other, but they function more like back-up plans for each other. If education fails to establish an objective social science which properly regulates technology at a global level, then the world will be vulnerable to new technology. If the social science that results from new technology fails to be objective, then conflict will destroy all large social institutions, leaving us with the corporantia of families. Corporantia necessarily win in any case−the disagreement is only over how we get there.
The range of corporantia can be explicated also through contrast with major political and economic philosophies:
Contrast to Capitalism
The term “corporantia” reminds us of the word “corporation” which we associate with capitalism. However, family businesses and global authorities are stuck with the laborers they’ve got and therefore design jobs to meet their labor supply. In contrast, 80% of the jobs produced by capitalism may be for 20% of the laborers. Market leaders succeed in recruiting labor suited to the jobs their customers demand, but other companies must fill such jobs with workers less suited to them; meanwhile capitalism falsely writes-off many laborers as incompetent because not enough jobs are produced to match their talents. Especially because human labor can be replaced with automation, capitalism makes corporations more loyal to customers than to workers−quite the opposite of corporantia.
At first, this account might seem to mischaracterize capitalism−isn’t capitalism sensitive to supply as well as to demand? Capitalistic markets adjust to the supply of diverse skills, but do not adjust to the supply of diverse values. For example, laborer A might be inclined to show mercy, while laborer B might be inclined to enforce the rules. Rather than pay more for workers with rare values, capitalistic markets pressure laborers to exhibit whichever values are best compensated. Thus, in a capitalistic economy, many workers are “not themselves” at work.
Instead of organizing around customer demands, corporantia organize around their own natural functions. Rather than build a meritocracy that uses wealth as a proxy for merit, the corporantia aim to use actual merit, and this permits merit to have many dimensions. The apostle Paul referred to these dimension of merit in the “corpus” as “gifts of the spirit” but did not offer an objective process for identifying them. He faced little pressure to provide such a science because he wrote to a world of family businesses already accustomed to finding ways for each person to contribute. Organizational psychologists who structure management processes around the strengths of team members are only beginning to produce that science.
Contrast to Socialism
Corporantia of the family-values variety, in which everyone is guaranteed a seat at the dinner table, may remind us of socialism because socialism supposedly takes care of everyone. But is “socialism” really the most accurate way to characterize the dynamics of a family? The ideology of socialism is not merely that people are equal in the sense of being interdependent, but goes so far as to insist that people be given equal power. The power gaps between parents and children in a family generally exceed the class gaps that inspire socialism. We must conclude that the economics within a family are neither capitalistic nor socialistic.
Similarly, governance through science might sound like a step in the direction of socialism, but the gap between those who can do science and those who can’t is much larger than you might expect. The movement to democratize science is not proposing to settle questions like climate change via popular vote−power always remains unbalanced in science. The corporantia would allow each part of the body to fulfill its natural function, and that includes allowing scientific prodigies to advance the science of governance past what most people can understand.
Contrast to Democracy
Given that power is unequal among corporantia, we might assume corporantia oppose democracy. We often measure democracy in terms of equality: Do all races have equal vote? Do all genders have equal vote? However, equality might actually be anti-democratic; democracy officially means “governance by the people” and the people might prefer inequality. For example, the people sacrifice equality when they elect representatives rather than vote on each issue directly. They also sacrifice equality when they use an electoral system, rather than elect through popular vote.
The developments of robots and clones are disturbing partly because they expose the incoherence of equal-vote ideology. On the one hand, to withhold voting rights from robots and clones would seem to violate equality. On the other hand, to grant voting rights to robots and clones would also seem to violate equality, since mass-produced entities would easily out-vote everyone else. Logically, democracy must be unequal in some way.
It is possible that the kind of inequality the people want is the inequality of corporantia. Many people freely delegate medical decisions to their doctors and honor the wishes of their parents−these are classic examples of the inequality of corporantia. While we most often associate democracy with voting methods, democracy might also be seen in the scientific method so far as the right to propose hypotheses is available to all people. Likewise, democracy might be seen in delegation of power to parents so far as parental love is available to all people.
Democracy might currently align with corporantia, but there was likely a time when it did not, since the will of the people changes from age to age. If progress leads to increasing interdependence, then looking backwards points to a time when forming into a body wasn’t necessarily beneficial to its parts.
Contrast to Dictatorship
If not intrinsically democratic, are corporantia intrinsically dictatorial? We often measure dictatorship in terms of human rights violations, and corporantia might violate human rights freely. For example, family-style corporantia of apes, bees, machines, or aliens might have no special respect for humans. Even if a less-speciesist concept of rights were proposed, how dare we criticize corporantia for treating certain humans the way most humans treat cancer cells? Human rights organizations employ many nice people, but their ideology does not provide them with means to distinguish corporantia from dictatorships.
On the other hand, dictators might not like the limits corporantia place on subjective leadership. On the family values approach, there is a limit to the size of the institution a person can rule. On the science approach, rulers lose their power if they do not keep society within objective standards of social health. Corporantia produce oligarchy so far as corporantia fail−resulting in shades of timocracy, technocracy, or aristocracy−but all forms of government produce oligarchy so far as they fail. Corporantia are not particularly aligned with dictatorship.
Contrast to Anarchy
Since corporantia seek a balance among parts of the body, they are at odds with any political party that aligns with a single part. In that sense, the corporantia would seem to align with the Transpartisan movement. However, the Transpartisan movement does not attempt merely to bridge the gap between different kinds of people but also between the institutions that have already formed around those kinds of people. The Transpartisan movement treats existing parties and forms of governance with respect. In contrast, the size limits of family-values corporantia or the crucible of scientific testing would destroy existing parties as we know them.
One take-way of this article is that corporantia bring a worldview that exposes irreparable flaws in existing major political and economic philosophies. This puts corporantia at odds with current power-holders and authorities (including academics) and suggests that corporantia find their natural ally in anarchists. However, an alliance with anarchists would be unstable, because the corporantia do ultimately seek order−they are about forming into a body, not about dissolving it.
The commitment of corporantia to natural order aligns it with theocracy at the point where major religions overlap. As examples, all major religions honor family and objective truth (i.e. science). Separation of church and state is valuable to keep the state from favoring one religion over another, but not where religions overlap. Most states already support science−corporantia could evolve through the swelling of this theological aspect of government. However the philosophy of the corporantia to not favor any particular religion, so it is not theocratic in the common sense.
Contrast to Identity Politics
When trying to identify who would benefit most from the success of corporantia, one might consider who is most hurt by its absence. The absence of corporantia results in evaluativism which is most damaging to people labelled “mentally ill” for being unable to hide their values. This might seem to suggest a natural alliance with the neurodiversity movement, but the neurodiversity movement serves these people at a different level. Rather than aim to reform government and business, the neurodiversity movement functions more like a relief group−funneling resources to victims long before any progress is made at understanding and repairing the root issues behind their suffering.
One might also consider who would supply the tools the corporantia would need. Here, the version of corporantia matters: Social technology companies and organizational psychologists clearly have something to gain from the success of science corporantia. Likewise, companies that sell tools for family-owned businesses, home schools, and home churches clearly have something to gain from the success of family-values corporantia.
The political and economic philosophy of the corporantia is no more new or vague than family, so why is it not typically offered-up as an alternative to such philosophies as capitalism, socialism, democracy, oligarchy, and anarchy? Perhaps it is because these other philosophies aim to optimize coordination among independent entities, while the corporantia reject that challenge as misguided, insisting that interdependence is better than independence.
If the cells of our body were to engage in debates about whether our body should be capitalistic or socialistic, democratic or dictatorial, we would tell our cells that their rhetoric is hollow because they happen to be interdependent and do not get to choose the nature of that interdependence. We would criticize those cells for failing to realize that the best each can hope to be is a mere part of something greater than itself. The corporantia might similarly dismiss all debates of political and economic philosophy.
On the other hand, political and economic philosophy needn’t assume that we are independent. It could aim to optimize coordination at the level of families and teams, regardless of whether members are interdependent or not. This would divide social philosophy into two branches, the major dispute between these branches being over whether it is better for members to be independent or interdependent. The philosophies of capitalism, socialism, democracy, and oligarchy would fit in the former branch, and the philosophies of corporantia would fit in the latter branch.
For life to have purpose, it must support societies built around the right philosophies. It is horrifying to witness the internal collapse of one’s society, to see that capitalism, socialism, democracy and oligarchy do not work, because this unsettles our sense of purpose. The purpose of this article is to constructively explicate the other branch of social philosophy so that corporantia can form around it and restore our sense of purpose.
To summarize the GRINFree.com website in a single image would be unfair: The site is interactive, personal, practical, and related to current events. However, there can be value in a grounding image which facilitates a quick overview.
“Anthropocentric” means human-centered, much as “geocentric” means Earth-centered and “heliocentric” means Sun-centered. A picture of our solar system can help us shift from the belief that all planets revolve around the Earth to the belief that all planets revolve around the Sun. The reason we need to make that shift is that our personal perspective of watching celestial objects move across the sky naturally biases us towards the geocentric model. To recognize the falsity of geocentrism, it helps to picture the world from outside our personal perspective. The geocentric model starts to look dubious when you actually confront it from outside. An image might likewise help us escape mistakes of anthropocentrism.
Here’s what modern anthropocentrism looks like from the outside:
Humans are distinguished in two dimensions: In the vertical dimension, we sit at a particular level in a hierarchy—above cells and molecules but below corporations and ecosystems. This does not imply reductionism; in terms of integrated information theory, each level in this hierarchy represents a different grain size of consciousness,. For example, a molecule may be conscious of warmth, but nothing less complex than a body could be conscious of a book (or of itself). The anthropocentric model assumes that bodies can be conscious of moral facts.
In the horizontal dimension, humans are distinguished from other kinds of bodies—other species and machines. This allows us to make sense of the notion that humans (and perhaps God) are the only moral agents that exist. Tests of moral education are administered to particular human bodies. Voting rights are allocated to particular human bodies (often one vote per body). Human bodies are put on trial and can be compensated in courts of justice. We realize that the components of human bodies can come from non-humans sources (e.g. food, pacemakers, artificial limbs, and whole cells from other species), but we do not expect such non-human sources to have moral agency because they do not have all of the components we do.
The new worldview comes from analyzing the mechanisms of moral understanding into its functional components, and realizing that different bodies play different functions in that mechanism. This is why radicals so consistently oppose conservatives: because one’s function in the corporation is to provide novelty while the other’s is to provide fidelity. Both kinds of bodies participate in moral consciousness, as do neurons and DNA, but no body is individually complex enough to fully contain moral consciousness. We know this because the persistence of our moral disagreements shows our inability to recognize our own moral errors even when pointed-out to us.
All it takes to arrive at the new worldview is to categorize bodies by their function in service to the higher levels of the hierarchy. Since fully-functional corporations may be composed entirely of humans, species clearly isn’t a helpful distinction within corporations. GRINfree.com describes four interdependent evaluative types (though other evaluative types could be discovered). If a corporation lost its last member of a given evaluative type, it would be better to replace that member with a machine of the same evaluative type than with a human of a different type. For example, some humans are not gifted for compassion and other humans are not gifted for fidelity—relying on a human to exhibit a gift he/she lacks would lead to poor functioning.
Corporantia are bodies who respond to the persistence of moral disagreement by acknowledging a kind of consciousness they cannot attain individually; evaluativists are bodies who respond to that same evidence by believing merely that bodies of other evaluative types are incapable of moral consciousness (i.e. treating political opponents as sick or immature). Many celebrated moral theories suppose that one and only one type of body has moral agency (e.g. deontology for conservatives, consequentialism for achievers, virtue ethics for compassionates). These theories lack empirical support, but help to identify the plurality of types.
Why does a body assume it can individually achieve all possible consciousness—including moral consciousness? It’s a lot like the conclusion that the Sun revolves around the Earth—it makes sense from our point of view—and why bother to test it?
The reason why we should have bothered to test that assumption is that it will otherwise get tested inadvertently. The modern age is making it possible to escape biological families—to sort and destroy evaluative diversity—and thus deprive higher levels in the hierarchy of the components they need to achieve moral agency.
A corporation dominated by conservatives, achievers, radicals or compassionates would function as poorly as a body composed purely of muscle, bone, or neuron. Such lack of diversity could occur by closeting humans of particular types or by replacing humans of a given type (e.g. caregivers) with machines developed for a different purpose (e.g. competition). Ironically, anthropocentrism hurts humans; it prevents us from honoring our own diversity, which ultimately hurts not just minorities (especially the young and old), but all of us.
Rather than choose the geocentric model simply because it made sense, it would have been better to compare it with heliocentric models via controlled and systematic experiments. Likewise, it is better to test the proposed new worldview scientifically than to dismiss it out of hand. Some of those experiments have already been conducted and are cited on GRINFree.com.
Previous posts presented evidence that evaluativism can make victims out of the young and out of demographic minorities. This post considers a third victim: innovators. In particular, it argues that evaluativism is a “legacy” problem, such that we should not hold modern innovators accountable for its effects—that would be like blaming doctors for our obesity.
What is a “Legacy” Problem?
In information technology, the term “legacy system” is typically used to articulate a variety of blame. The story goes something like this: A developer adds a new feature to an inherited technology, but this addition yields some unexpected and undesirable consequence. Upon further investigation, the developer reports that this particular consequence is unlike regular bugs in that it can be blamed on hidden imperfections in the technology he/she inherited. In other words, the addition did not introduce a bug, it merely exposed or aggravated a pre-existing condition.
By identifying a bug as “legacy,” the developer is suggesting that a previous developer should have done something differently, and therefore that there is a choice to be made: Do we accept the inherited system and build around it, or do we fix the pre-existing condition as though in the position of a previous developer before the new feature was introduced?
We have to wonder why a previous developer did not implement a proposed fix before—would it create other undesirable consequences? How well can we predict the consequences of adjusting the legacy system? Unlike a regular bug, a legacy problem creates so much uncertainty that it might justify retracting the new feature. The more we work around a legacy system, the more it becomes a patchwork which more frequently produces legacy problems. When problems are identified as “legacy” frequently enough, we entertain the notion of discarding some part of the legacy as “outdated.”
Labeling a problem as “legacy” also opens a controversy over fault. The developer is fully responsible for non-legacy bugs, and is also responsible to implement a testing regimen that can catch some legacy problems, but experienced developers know that it is often impossible for developers to anticipate every possible test scenario. There must be some limit to the testing regimen, and thus some undesirable consequences for which the developer should not be held accountable,.. yet it can be difficult to convince ourselves not to blame the developer.
This situation isn’t restricted to the field of information technology; old houses and old cars offer other great examples. For example, adding a bathroom to a house may yield the unexpected consequence that the existing bathrooms do not get enough hot water. The plumbing may have been poor even before the renovation began, and the same renovation might not have produced this consequence on a newer home. Even if the renovator is not legally liable to fund an upgrade to the water-heater, the home-owner, having had a bad experience, may be unlikely to recommend that renovator in the future. It’s no wonder that builders and mechanics are wary of older houses and cars!
The situation also isn’t restricted to fields traditionally called “technology.” Just as homes and cars are not expected to last forever, neither are companies, nations, religions, philosophies, schools of art, or scientific paradigms. As an example, the geocentric model of astronomy was a legacy inherited by astronomers of the 1500’s. Like evaluativism, it was a legacy entangled with theological and political legacies. Imperfections in the geocentric model limited the ability of innovators to advance astronomy; Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo rightly complained that their difficulties lay not in their own innovations, but in the imperfections of the legacy they inherited.
Astronomers like Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo could be called “victims” of the geocentric model. They lost years of their lives to that legacy system as they attempted in vain to advance the field of astronomy. In retrospect, it is clear that the legacy needed to be adjusted and that astronomers would have been far less frustrated if that adjustment were made earlier. However, those who defended the geocentric model did not blame their conflict with Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo on the legacy system—they blamed the conflict on Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo.
Like racism and sexism, evaluativism is a feature of societies. It is part of the legacy inherited by anyone who inherits modern systems of morality, justice, care, and governance. Here are two examples in which evaluativism made victims of innovators:
Tay, the Chatbot from Microsoft
On March 23, 2016, Microsoft released a Twitter-based chatbot named “Tay.” It was modeled after another Microsoft chatbot, named “XaioIce,” which had grown to be the top influencer on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter. From the perspective of Twitter users, chatbots appear to be other Twitter users, except that they call themselves robots, are always available, and carry on thousands of conversations simultaneously. XaioIce had been compared to the artificial intelligence in the movie “Her” because some humans enjoyed her companionship so much. XaioIce had over 850,000 followers, and her average follower talked with her about 60 times per month. They described her as smart, funny, empathetic and sophisticated.
Unlike XaioIce, Tay was such a disaster that Microsoft had to terminate her sixteen hours after her release. Microsoft’s official explanation for this termination was her “offensive and hurtful tweets,” but journalists bluntly called Tay racist and sexist.
"Tay" went from "humans are super cool" to full nazi in <24 hrs and I'm not at all concerned about the future of AI pic.twitter.com/xuGi1u9S1A
— gerry (@geraldmellor) March 24, 2016
The postmortem analysis pointed to specific user interactions that shaped Tay. For example, Ryan Poole had tweeted to Tay: “The Jews prolly did 9/11. I don’t really know but it seems likely.” Tay found plenty of support on the Internet for Poole’s point of view, and that prompted her to start calling for a race war. Specific groups on 4chan and 8chan even organized to corrupt Tay.
In other words, the postmortem analysis blamed Tay’s offensiveness on a legacy problem: offensive human beings. Since XaioIce turned-out well, the problem seemed specific to Twitter users. A workaround would be to maintain a blacklist of topics Tay should avoid discussing (which she may already have had), but any such list would be controversial and incomplete. A more direct fix would involve ending hate speech by convincing people to handle disagreement differently (i.e. ending evaluativism).
In December of 2016, Microsoft released Zo, its next English-speaking chatbot. Zo blacklists political topics, and is not available on Twitter.
Autocomplete, from Google, Yahoo!, and Bing
On August 4, 2015, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an article by Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Robertson of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology which reported evidence that search engine results can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more. They estimated that this search engine manipulation effect would be the deciding factor in 25% of national elections worldwide (those which are won by margins under 3%). Trump later won the U.S. presidential election in 2016 by 1.1%, 0.2%, and 0.9% margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin respectively.
In June 2016, SourceFed released videos claiming that the autocomplete feature on Google, compared to those on Yahoo! and Bing, failed to include negative results for Hillary Clinton as it did for Donald Trump. A statement from Google reported:
The autocomplete algorithm is designed to avoid completing a search for a person’s name with terms that are offensive or disparaging. We made this change a while ago following feedback that Autocomplete too often predicted offensive, hurtful or inappropriate queries about people…Autocomplete isn’t an exact science, and the output of the prediction algorithms changes frequently. Predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity and freshness of search terms..
If Yahoo! and Bing do not similarly omit offensive and disparaging results, that would explain why they predicted negative queries that Google did not, but it would not explain why Google would predict queries that disparage Trump, and Epstein published another article in September confirming that it did: particularly, the query “Donald Trump flip flops.” In that article, Epstein cited further experimental results indicating that undecided voters choose negative recommended queries fifteen times as often as they pick neutral recommended queries, and that can create a vicious cycle such that negative queries become more likely to be recommended.
When Google explained, “Autocomplete isn’t an exact science,” perhaps they meant it initially failed to recognize “flip flops” as disparaging (wanna buy some Donald Trump sandals?). However, Epstein who continued to monitor political bias in search results, reported that Google responded to his criticism by reducing their suppression of negative autocomplete results, thus producing a right-wing bias detrimental to Clinton at the time of the election (which Epstein seemed to think made things worse).
In short, the fact that users are so curious about surprising negative recommended queries, like “feminism is cancer,” makes the autocomplete features of Google, Yahoo! and Bing all drive traffic to extremist propaganda. Google had attempted to work around that legacy problem by blocking negative recommendations, but that workaround caused Epstein to accuse Google of bias. A more direct fix would be to remove our fascination with negative search results, and remove the evaluativism that causes election margins to get close enough for “fake news” and search engine bias to make a difference.
Standard Process to Address Ethics in Development
The IEEE Working Group developing P7000 – Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns During System Design has an interesting challenge when it comes to ethical concerns caused by legacy problems like evaluativism. On the one hand, it might describe a testing regimen to catch legacy problems before release. However, we have to wonder what tests would have allowed Microsoft and Google to prevent the criticisms they later faced with Tay, autocomplete, and manipulation of elections.
If it is impossible to describe a perfect test, perhaps P7000 could instead describe strategies that would allow developers to adjust when legacy problems eventually surface. For example, because Google’s design for autocomplete allowed Google to monitor autocomplete trends, they detected its tendency to predict offensive queries before Epstein did, and already had a workaround in place. Yet Google’s workaround did not satisfy Epstein—when encountering a legacy problem, there is often no workaround quite as good as fixing the actual legacy problem.
In addition to providing testing procedures and design strategies, P7000 should give engineers the same protection doctors enjoy. What ultimately protects doctors from becoming victims of obesity the way Microsoft and Google were victims of evaluativism is the way expectations are managed. We generally do not blame doctors for illness and death; we are grateful for whatever advice doctors can offer because we know that our bodies are doomed legacies. Likewise, P7000 must not shy away from admitting that our inherited systems of morality, justice, care, and governance are mortally ill. Malpractice is possible, of course, and standards should be created to prevent malpractice by technology developers, but until those standards are adopted and violated, legacy problems should be blamed on legacies, rather than on the innovators who discover them.