Tag Archives: interdependence

Plato’s Crito, civil disobedience and evaluativism

The Crito by Plato reads like a scene from a play set in the prison of Athens in 399 BC, the day before Socrates was to be executed. It is the scene in which Crito attempts to rescue Socrates, but Socrates refuses to avoid his execution. To some extent, the Crito must be fiction—Plato couldn’t possibly have overheard the actual events—yet the basic story is considered so important and historically accurate that the site of the prison has been preserved. This photo shows the foundation and three cells.

The Greeks consider themselves the pioneers not only of theater and of nearly every modern form of government but also of philosophy. Socrates taught philosophy to Plato who taught it to Aristotle who taught it to Alexander the Great who ruled an empire and established the place of that philosophy in history. Thus, Socrates was arguably the source of Western thought traditions, and reading the Crito helps us recognize deep biases inside Western thought.

Socrates had been sentenced to death over his habit of asking questions that made other people look foolish. Today, that behavior would be protected by the right to free speech, but no such right was established at the time. Socrates insisted that his antisocial habit was part of his identity, which he labelled “social gadfly.” He said he couldn’t stop being himself, much as modern people say we can’t stop having the sexual preferences we do or the neurodiversity we do. Apparently, the only way to end the embarrassment was to end Socrates.

Crito arranged to bribe the guards and send Socrates to live with friends in Thessaly. Such a rescue would have been an act of civil disobedience, a concept popularized in recent times by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. In the Crito, Crito explains this plan to Socrates, then Socrates details an argument to the conclusion that one should never engage in civil disobedience. “…one must obey the commands of one’s city and country, or persuade it as to the nature of justice.”

Today, it does not seem reasonable to condemn civil disobedience this way. If we will not condemn the followers of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., then we should count Socrates’ famous argument as fallacious, and we should examine it. We may find unsound premises in it which also appear in other parts of Western thinking.

To reject Crito’s offer was suicide. Crito claimed that Socrates would be wrong to commit suicide because Socrates would be shirking his duty to nurture his children until they reach maturity and because Socrates would be blocking his friends from fulfilling their duty to save him. Socrates dismissed the relevance of these consequences, “…if it appears [to us] that we shall be acting unjustly, then we have no need at all to take into account whether we shall have to die…” In other words, the consequences for individual citizens such as himself, his children, and his friends are trumped by the consequences for the State. This narrowed the scope of the Crito to the nature of civil disobedience.

Socrates argued that civil disobedience treats the State unjustly: “…do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of its courts have no force but are nullified and set at naught by private individuals?” Of course, the intent behind civil disobedience is not to destroy the State, but rather to save it! If a person is suicidal, then it may benefit that person to temporarily act against that person’s will. Likewise, if a State is ill, then it may benefit the State to temporarily engage in civil disobedience.

If the right sort of illness is not present, then civil disobedience would not be justified, but Socrates and Crito both believed that the State was ill in this instance. In his defense, Socrates said that a sluggish horse may need to be stirred up by a gadfly, and that the State similarly needs to be stirred up by himself. Rather than claim that the State was not ill, Socrates argued that it should be healed in a less destructive way: “we [the State] do not issue savage commands to do whatever we order; we give two alternatives, either to persuade us or to do what we say.”

In other words, Socrates claimed that civil disobedience is never justified because one should instead heal States by persuading them to change their understanding of justice. We now know of two major problems with this premise: First, persuasion might not be feasible. It is more appropriate to treat suicidal patients with drugs than with persuasion because their mental illness may render the persuasion ineffective. Likewise, the State might be too ill to be persuaded–Socrates had already failed to resolve his disagreement with the State through persuasion, and it would be insane to keep attempting what wasn’t working.

Second, persuasion could actually damage the State by diminishing the interdependent diversity of its social ecosystem. Some disagreements stem from mere ignorance. For example, consider disagreement about the answer to an arithmetic problem. It is entirely appropriate to reduce ignorance, and therefore appropriate to resolve such disagreements. However, other disagreements reflect our interdependent evaluative diversity. For example, society may benefit from including members with different thresholds for risk, and that diversity would produce disagreements about which risks to take. Resolving such disagreements would damage the State by reducing this diversity.

There are two kinds of people who reject the idea of resolving all disagreements: Corporantia and Evaluativists. Corporantia seek to preserve interdependent diversity. Rather than resolve all disagreements, they aim to maintain balance among interdependent parts of society and to discover the proper function of each part. The two most famous admonitions of Socrates and his students seem aligned with this approach: “Nothing too much” and “Know thyself.”

But Socrates died because he didn’t really practice what he preached. He was an evaluativist, someone who responds to the impossibility of persuasion by discounting those who do not share his own values. He proposed the premise: “One must not value…the opinions of all men, but those of some but not others…” Crito accepted this premise, supposedly to justify discounting the opinion of the State, but the same premise allowed Socrates to discount Crito’s opinion. Ultimately, the Crito concludes like this:

Socrates: As far as my present beliefs go, if you speak in opposition to them, you will speak in vain. However, if you think you can accomplish anything, speak.

Crito: I have nothing to say, Socrates.

Socrates: Let it be then, Crito, and let us act in this way, since this is the way the god is leading us.

Socrates leaves Crito no room for debate. He embraces evaluativism, and it destroys him.

Evaluativism typically stems from an inflated estimate of one’s own independent intelligence and ignorance about the virtues of interdependence. If the State recognized that its independent intelligence might be insufficient to understand justice, then, rather than demand to be persuaded, it would point to a more intelligent court where disagreements could be resolved, and/or it would test the sides in the disagreement by running separate social experiments in parallel.

As an example of parallel social experiment, consider Crito’s plan to send Socrates to Thessaly. If it turned out that Socrates enriched Thessaly, and that Athens languished in his absence, then this experiment would have produced evidence to support Socrates’ opinion that his gadfly behavior benefits the State.

But Socrates dismisses such a plan: “…if you go to one of the nearby cities… all who care for their city will look on you with suspicion, as a destroyer of the laws.” He never considers the possibility that the people of Thessaly might instead endorse civil disobedience because they judged that the State of Athens made an error it could not be persuaded to recognize. If we are to allow that Socrates can be a gadfly to the State, why not allow that Thessaly can be a gadfly to the collection of States?

Socrates’ lack of imagination in this scene is like that of a depressed individual who was dumped and cannot move on with his life. The Crito is ironic because Socrates’ evaluativism not only produces a fallacious argument against civil disobedience, but also dooms Socrates himself in the process.

Today, it may be most important to recognize that the argument would not have been fallacious if evaluative diversity were not interdependent. It follows that civil disobedience would not be justifiable without interdependence, and thus that every celebration of civil disobedience implies the claim that we lack sufficient independent intelligence. This is the key question which unsettles Western thought: “Should we expect to develop independent intelligence, or should we expect to develop interdependence?”

Socrates demonstrated the dangers of the former expectation. When do we learn the lesson?

Against the Prime Directive

By Illustration Credit: NASA and G. Bacon (STScI) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsIn 1933, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky wrote, “people deny the presence of intelligent beings on the [other] planets of the universe” because “(i) if such beings exist they would have visited Earth, and (ii) if such civilizations existed then they would have given us some sign of their existence.” His answer to this argument against the belief in the existence of intelligent aliens is called the “zoo hypothesis.” It is the speculation that intelligent extraterrestrials are so much more advanced than we are that our healthy development requires being protected from knowledge of them, like zoo animals segregated from zoo patrons.

We are more familiar with the zoo hypothesis in the form of Star Trek‘s Prime Directive:

Nothing within these Articles Of Federation shall authorize the United Federation of Planets to intervene in matters which are essentially the domestic jurisdiction of any planetary social system or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under these Articles Of Federation. But this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.

Franz Joseph clearly adapted it from the United Nations Charter, Chapter I, Article 2, paragraph 7:

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

In the Star Trek universe, the Prime Directive is cited as prohibiting any contact with any alien civilization until that civilization is sufficiently advanced. However, it is also cited as prohibiting any interference in the development of that civilization. It is cited especially as prohibiting interference in the internal politics of another society, which means that any involvement with any civilization—even after first contact—must have the informed consent of its lawful leadership. Someone must decide when a civilization is ready to know about each technology, and the Prime Directive prohibits any disclosure until that civilization has established a sovereign to provide such consent.

Thus, the Prime Directive advanced by the writers of Star Trek goes beyond the simple zoo hypothesis to endorse hierarchical governance such that each civilization has a single point of contact analogous to the role consciousness plays in each individual person. Many fascinating plots have evolved from the tension that exists between requiring each civilization to achieve unity and requiring the universe to accept disunity (e.g. honoring the independence of civilizations). There are obvious analogies to tensions regarding consent under suspicion of mental illness and to tensions regarding the (imperfect) sovereignty of parents in families.

A Trekkie might bring awareness of these tensions to the topic of gun control and to a quote falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” The quip seems to be evolving. Geoff Metcalf offers another version:

A Democracy: Three wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.

A Republic: The flock gets to vote for which wolves vote on dinner.

A Constitutional Republic: Voting on dinner is expressly forbidden, and the sheep are armed.

Federal Government: The means by which the sheep will be fooled into voting for a Democracy.

Freedom: Two very hungry wolves looking for dinner and finding a very well-informed and well-armed sheep.

I’d like to add to that:

Corporantia: Arms and legal process are both denied to anyone insufficiently informed to honor the necessary balance between predator and prey.

The quips poke fun at citizens and governments by comparing us to wolves and sheep, unable to master our own instincts and therefore unqualified to put forth any legitimate sovereign. Are humans really so lacking in self-awareness? Well…uh…yeah. Do you understand your brain well-enough to build someone else of equal intelligence? If not, then you are not self-aware. If you are not self-aware, then you are not a competent moral agent. Any democracy that you create would be illegitimate, like a nation of wolves and sheep.

The zoo hypothesis does not rule out the possibility that extraterrestrials are secretly active on Earth, protecting us like guardian angels, and invisibly interfering in our poorly-informed elections. That might be a good thing, but the UN Charter and Prime Directive, with their concept of sovereignty, inspire us to imagine that such interference might be immoral. The Charter probably isn’t an unbiased authority on this matter, since it was written by and for national sovereigns.

One of the architects of the United Nations, Winston Churchill, cited a now-famous quote in his address to the House of Commons: “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…” That is clearly false. It is often a bad idea to let children have an equal vote in the finances of the family or to expect the rest of the ecosystem to vote on how it should be managed (the bacteria would have a landslide majority). The only disadvantage of meritocracy is the sense of elitism experienced by the governed, and that sense is eliminated in these cases because the governed do not understand how they are manipulated.

Perhaps there is a stage of social development when the most clever members of society are not yet clever enough to manipulate the rest without being detected. At that time, the most clever might espouse something like the Prime Directive just to throw others off their scent, but it is a pretty dumb lie when you examine it closely. If two little children were fighting, wouldn’t it be immoral for parents to grant them a right to develop or otherwise obtain deadly weapons? Wouldn’t it be just as immoral to allow immature nations to develop weapons of mass destruction? Of course the most clever should guide/manipulate the rest; the interesting question is how transparent that manipulation should be (i.e. do we need to be fooled, or can we be humble instead?)

Another interesting stage of development comes when children reach the threshold of adulthood and it becomes less clear that parents make the better rulers. In terms of the zoo hypothesis, this stage starts when the people begin to calculate the improbability of being alone. The Fermi paradox is named after Enrico Fermi for leading those calculations. If those calculations inspire people to conceive the zoo hypothesis, they may begin to test the hypothesis by trying to freeload—shirking responsibility for their own development. Something like the Prime Directive may be warranted in that case. Like a parent pushing a child to become independent, Star Fleet may need to withdraw protection so aliens can verify the real possibility of destroying themselves.

That special and temporary application of the Prime Directive is a far cry from the UN concept wrapped in informed consent. The idea of informed consent was popularized by the judges of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. Lacking the competence to judge actions in terms of their health outcomes, the judges instead proposed to discern morality in terms of having informed consent. But modern ecosystem managers monitor the health of the ecosystem, rather than seek the informed consent of its members. Likewise, doctors act for the health of their patients and rightly question the sanity of any patient who refuses to consent to treatment. If people are not sufficiently self-aware to form moral democracies, then they certainly should not be trusted to provide informed consent.

When we push a child to become independent, it is not because the child has withdrawn consent to be parented. It is because we know, and, hopefully, our children also know, that their health requires that they grow up. We would stop protecting our children even if they asked us to let them stay immature for the rest of their lives. The relevant measure is health, rather than consent. The relevant question is “When is it healthy to become independent?”

In Pen Pals, Picard claimed “…the Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. To prevent us from allowing our emotions to overwhelm our judgment.” However, the better tool to prevent emotions from overwhelming judgment is objective health measures. In Dear Doctor, Archer suggested that the Prime Directive is a principle of neutrality, that it is about not playing God. However, it is not playing God to follow health measures controlled by God. On the contrary, to instead seek the consent of a consciousness—even the consciousness of a foreign sovereign—would be idolatry.

If we care for each other and want to protect each other, then our focus should be on improving measures of health, and this is where the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes sideways. It reads like the Prime Directive: Data that can be linked to a specific person shall not be shared, processed or even deleted without that person’s consent. Furthermore, that person shall have rights to change his/her consent: to erase the data or to examine and revise it. Imagine an accused adulterer demanding the ability to erase or revise the memories of an eyewitness! As with the Prime Directive, the GDPR forbids contact until the impossible practical puzzles of sovereignty are resolved.

The practice of the GDPR may look more like the zoo hypothesis where anyone is free to invade our privacy so long as the invader cannot be detected by the person whose privacy was invaded. We cannot testify, but we can observe and gossip. We can sell spouses evidence of adultery so long as the spouse cannot prove they got it from us. Does anyone really think relegating information to a black market will provide protection?

But the GDPR is worse than a useless distraction from our proper focus on health because it blocks us from doing exactly what is required to improve health measures: to conduct research. In order to grow-up, in order to heal, we need a more honest and accurate view of who we are. Were gay rights advanced by protecting privacy, or by bringing more accurate information about the nature of sexual orientation into the open? According to the GDPR, even if people consent to be understood, social statistics cannot be calculated without an impractical infrastructure to prove consent was obtained and to permit changes of heart. Thus, the GDPR makes truth about social health far more expensive to obtain legally, and that makes public schools less reliable than information black markets.

Why would the EU do something so stupid?

Smart people do stupid things because they are trapped by prior commitments, and the leaders of the EU are trapped by the people of the EU, who are in turn trapped by an inaccurate sense of self. Modern people easily buy into notions of sovereignty because they are insensitive to their interdependence. They believe that a consciousness can consent on the behalf of an entire person because they ignore the entanglements that blur the boundaries between persons and because they fail to empathize with the parts of a person that a consciousness fails to honor. They even believe that a government can consent on the behalf of an entire nation, despite evidence of internal diversity and artificial borders. At some level, we realize that sovereignty and consent are fantasies, but we have yet to reckon with the reality of interdependence.

I blame Star Trek for delaying that reckoning. Janet Stemwedel points out that the United States was fighting the Vietnam War when the series began and its enthusiasm for the Prime Directive might ironically have been the writers’ way of criticizing their own government. Ashley Meyers similarly points out that the Prime Directive made sense under a Cold War filter in which developing nations were “valued almost exclusively as pawns.” The GDPR likewise treats EU citizens as pawns in a tariff scheme whereby supervisory authorities are funded by GDPR  fees (recall that such taxation inspired the American Revolution). It is less about letting people be themselves than about collecting money in the name of letting people pretend to be something else.

Likewise, the Prime Directive is less about doing the right thing than about always having a scapegoat: a foreign sovereign to blame. Many wonderful ideas were explored in the Star Trek science fiction series, but its implication that future generations will endorse the Prime Directive may relegate the series to history’s catalog of political propaganda. The GDPR is one way that propaganda has now influenced situations far beyond the 1960s and far beyond the safety of fiction.

Marriage, Employment and Interdependence

The flatness of GRIN org charts reduces points of vulnerability

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:

  1. Each evaluator has at least one symmetric or supporting relationship (i.e. without an arrow head pointing at him/her).
  2. Each evaluator is connected to an institutional evaluator either directly or through a relatively short chain of relational evaluators.
  3. Each gadfly has a relationship with a relational evaluator who has a relationship with a negotiator.
  4. No two gadflies compete over any given relational evaluator.
  5. All of these criteria remain satisfied even if any single evaluator is removed.
  6. Each evaluator must be replaceable without creating too many expensive relationships (i.e. no evaluator can have too many arrows ending at him/her).

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:

Family in reproduction

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.

Next Steps

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:

  • People are evaluatively diverse, disagreeing again and again with the same other people
  • As extended families break down, the stability of intimate relationships rests on economic interdependence and marriage and divorce rates degrade
  • Businesses that do not divide into families ultimately die because they develop the fragility of dogmatism/central-control

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.

The Political and Economic Philosophy of Corporantia

By Ekta Parishad CC BY-SA 3.0“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.

The Big Picture: A less-anthropocentric worldview

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. Original image by Niko Lang SVG version by User:Booyabazooka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsA 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:

Modern Anthropocentric Model

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,{\textstyle \Phi ^{\textrm {Max}}}. 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.

Less-Anthropocentric Model

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.