Tag Archives: social responsibility

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.

Who is blamed for evaluativism?

The Twitter profile picture of Tay

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.

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.

A Party to Recruit Corporantia

1009892593_d597a0608e_bImagine a party which goes like this:

  1. Guests: Upon arrival, each guest is given a bracelet with a letter and a color (e.g. for forty guests, there might be one red bracelet of each letter—A, B, C and D—two green bracelets of each letter, three yellow bracelets of each letter, and four white of each letter). Each guest must keep their bracelet for the duration of the game.
  2. Rooms: There is one room (or circle) per letter, and each guest is initially assigned to the room corresponding to his/her letter. At the beginning of the game, ensure that each room has exactly the right number of chairs for the number of guests assigned to that room.
  3. Winning: The goal of the game is to maximize dancing. When the music starts, each guest not “in poverty” goes to his/her assigned room. All guests with the letter corresponding to their assigned room dance.
  4. Entering Poverty: When the music stops, each guest must sit in a chair. If there are not enough chairs, then the guests assigned to that room must set an objective rule to decide who gets a chair. To make it objective, all criteria for the rule must come from the bracelets. For example, people cannot win chairs by being faster, stronger, or more aggressive. Instead, priority for a chair could go to people with red bracelets, or green bracelets, or the most common color, or the least common color, or the most common color among the impoverished, or to the color that didn’t get a chair last time (etc.). Anyone lacking a chair goes into “poverty”.
  5. Chair Movement: During each song, the host records a census of color and room assignment among those in poverty, then identifies two rooms at random. The room with more assigned people currently in poverty is the winner for that song and the other is the loser. The host, all people in poverty, and anyone sitting (not dancing) in a room other than the loosing room transfer one chair each from the losing room to the winning room.
  6. Prison: When someone from poverty takes a chair, the guests assigned to the losing room may optionally send that person to prison. Anyone sent to prison takes the chair to prison and sits in it until the end of the game. People in prison have no room assignment; they do not dance nor move chairs from room to room.
  7. Exiting Poverty: After chairs are moved, each person left in poverty flips a coin; those who get heads  leave poverty and become reassigned to the winning room (although they cannot dance if their bracelet doesn’t have the letter corresponding to their room assignment).
  8. Ending the Game: The songs get shorter and shorter. The party ends after a set number of songs (e.g. 20).

At the end of the party, the guests review the record of diversity among those in poverty. Were there times when the rules to decide who gets a chair changed? Why? How did guests feel about people who shared their color? How did they feel about people who shared their letter? How many people were dancing in the end?

This is an exercise you can use to raise awareness of how diversity impacts us. Rather than model diversity in a simplified way which implies that we should be blind to diversity, this exercise acknowledges that diversity comes in two kinds. Each room represents a social role, and the chairs in that room represent the number of positions available for that role. The letters and colors on the bracelets represent our diversity. Some elements of our diversity are relevant to social roles and others are not, yet both kinds of diversity can impact who loses social positions when there aren’t enough positions to go around.

“Stay-at-home parent” and “small business owner” are two examples of social positions that became dramatically less common at certain points in history. Participants in the exercise should ask themselves: How many such transitions do I expect to witness in my lifetime? Were any stages in the game reflective of modern life? What would it take to maximize dancing?

This game is rigged for evaluativism: Even though rule 5 always favors the room with the greater opportunity to improve, it writes-off the losing room entirely. Then what comes around goes around; no matter what players decide about who goes to prison and who goes to poverty, rule 5 rigs the game so that most people will not be dancing in the end.

Corporantia are players who want to replace rule 5 with a more subtle kind of chair-balancing that scientifically determines the number of chairs to move. They want to figure-out how many people were assigned each letter, and balance the distribution of chairs across all rooms so that the number of chairs in a given room matches the number of people with the corresponding bracelet. To implement such a rule in real life would relinquish unprecedented political and economic power to science. Those who propose such a shift can seem to be “playing god,” and it takes exercises like this one to build consensus.

Interdependent Meals and Post-Publication Peer Review

Here are two more things you can do to advance the management of GRIN diversity:Interdependent meal

  1. Host an interdependent meal, and
  2. Promote post-publication peer review of the GRINSQ valida-tion study

These opportunities arose from two practical efforts that have been underway for the last two and a half years:

  1. The development of a social movement against evaluativism
  2. The development of science to measure the impact of GRIN types and evaluativism in our world

 

The Social Movement and the Interdependent Meal

The idea of organizing a social movement against evaluativism was inspired by the history of racism. Evaluativism and racism have both existed for millennia; both are implicit biases; both became entrenched by shaping the design of social institutions. Management of racism was ineffective until a social movement was developed to overcome it. One might expect the same for management of evaluativism.

The movement against racism started in churches, and it seems appropriate for the movement against evaluativism to start in churches as well:

The suggestion that the church create a social movement against evaluativism was taken to Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR). Based on her experience with race and the church, she suggested that the movement would need to be grassroots. Erin’s experience suggested that congregations are unlikely to address discrimination when the movement is created by a central administration like GCORR.

Therefore, a core team of clergy from across Wisconsin met once a month for about a year to plan an event, and produced a plan entitled “Christian Response to Evaluativism in Wisconsin“. The work of the core team included a great deal of discovery and invention (e.g. the plan includes a recipe for an interdependent meal). Perhaps most importantly, it found that responsible management of evaluativism requires resources lacked by typical congregations, so the movement cannot be built in a grassroots fashion. Central leadership must take responsibility to manage evaluativism.

A movement against evaluativism may be less likely to find institutional support from churches than from organizations which represent victims of evaluativism (e.g. child advocacy organizations or neurodiversity organizations) or from an association of organizational psychologists. For society to face the facts about evaluativism would shift social influence (and money) to groups of the latter kinds. Nonetheless, only churches can lead exploration of the theological dimensions.

 

The Scientific Movement and Post-Publication Peer Review

The social movement is expected to advance hand-in-hand with a scientific movement—scientific discoveries justify the social movement, and the social movement gathers the resources required to make discoveries.

Science needs a movement because the current quality of social science is poor like the quality of medical science was poor until about a hundred years ago. The first scientists to measure evaluativism and evaluative diversity (which they called “moral diversity“) supported evaluativism. The same was true of philosophers. Only recently have influential scientists begun to entertain evidence that evaluative diversity is hardwired and useful. Yet, even now, such science remains scattered by the division of scientific disciplines.

Given the current state of science, there is no central email address to which one might submit a hypothesis (like the GRIN model) or a measure (like the GRIN Self-Quiz) to be put on a waiting-list for testing. One must either run tests oneself or form relationships with particular scientists to convince them to run the tests.

In 2011, Chris Santos-Lang began discussing evaluative diversity with Ray Aldag. They met once a week until 2015. Ray encouraged Chris to begin testing the GRIN model via survey research. That research was completed in 2013. In addition to confirming that GRIN types could be discriminated among humans, it produced some rather shocking evidence:

  • Political affiliation aligns with GRIN type
  • Religious affiliation aligns with GRIN type
  • The career you end up in aligns with GRIN type
  • Whether you are accused of a crime (and probably whether you end-up in prison) aligns with GRIN type

This evidence implies that our political, religious, vocational and justice systems are not what we think they are, and it raises serious doubts about popular conceptions of freedom. To rally the scientific community to address this evidence, Chris submitted the research for peer-review and publication.

Why is it important to rally the scientific community? Eventually science gets too complicated for one person to advance alone. We would want to conduct twin studies, genetic tests, and brain imaging to work out the mechanisms through which the GRIN model manifests in humans. It takes many people to raise the funding and conduct all of the tests.

Chris submitted to ten peer-review processes and received a total of six blind reviews. None endorsed publication, yet none found any flaws in the research. Having confirmed that flaws in the research (if any) are not obvious, the research and peer review were published on figshare. Any flaws discovered in the future should be published via post-publication peer review at PubPeer. If you know anyone who could find flaws in the research (i.e. someone who conducts survey research), please encourage them to review it. Ray used the GRIN Self-Quiz to make further discoveries himself (e.g. described here), and we hope others will find it useful as well.

Evalutativists vs Corporantia

Chris Santos-Lang will co-facilitate a dialog entitled “What if we are hard-wired to disagree across political divides?” on Oct 16, at the 2016 National Conference on Dialog and Deliberation.  Dialog is limited by language, so the goal will be to advance new concepts into our shared language:

Division by value types can be referred to as “evaluative diversity” (Strawson, 1961)
e.g. “Moral diversity, political diversity, religious diversity, neurodiversity, cultural diversity, occupation types, high-school cliques, musical genres, personality, and computational types correlate because they all influence or are influenced by evaluative diversity.”

Division by interdependent value types can be referred to as “GRIN diversity” (Santos-Lang, 2013)
e.g “GRIN diversity is always worthy of our protection because of our interdependence, but evaluative diversity isn’t always worthy of protection because it can include obsolete doctrines and loyalties.”

Rejection of people predisposed to opposing evaluative types can be referred to as “evaluativism” (Martin, 1989)
e.g. “Like racism, evaluativism is both an explicit philosophy and an implicit instinct. The instinct is strong; Shanto Iyengar showed that evaluativism would cause over 70% of us to reject the most qualified candidate for a scholarship.”

Entities which form into a body (i.e. “corpus”) can be referred to as “corporantia” (ancient Latin). People who assign natural social roles (e.g. by GRIN type) are corporantia.
e.g. “If you are not an evaluativist, nor ignorant of GRIN diversity, then you must be a member of the corporantia described in Ephesians 4:12.”

The GRIN types discovered thus far are “gadfly“, “relational“, “institutional“, and “negotiator” (Santos-Lang, 2013)
e.g. “Hibbing defended diverse political predispositions by equating liberals with gadflies and conservatives with institutional evaluators; meanwhile, Trump is defended as being a negotiator. These types come from pure math—each specializes in relieving a different limiting factor of social evolution.”

Evaluativists and corporantia reveal their opposition to each other in the ways they respond to evidence that certain disagreements cannot be resolved as factual disagreements. They hold opposing positions on the question, “If we cannot reach agreement through education, then how shall we resolve our disagreement?”:

Evaluativists treat irreconcilable disagreements as hardships, and attempt to minimize them by avoiding dependence on people who have opposing GRIN predispositions.  At a minimum, that involves some degree of segregation.  As it becomes possible to use neurosurgery or other treatments to alter a person’s GRIN predisposition, evaluativists will apply such treatments to people of opposing predispositions (especially to their own children).  They will also employ genetic engineering to reduce the frequency of opposing predispositions. In short, evaluativists resolve irreconcilable disagreements by minimizing exposure to opponents.

In contrast, corporantia submit themselves to be parts of something larger in which irreconcilable disagreements form a useful tension like the tension between bone and muscle.  Corporantia work to ensure that conflict persists at some level (e.g. trying to balance power between GRIN types in a legislative body).  Corporantia might even use medical treatments and genetic engineering to increase GRIN diversity and thus to increase social tension.  Corporantia expect everyone to act like parts of a body, limiting their social roles and leaving irreconcilable disagreements to be resolved at an impersonal level.

Physical Bodies and Social Bodies

Scientists tell a story about an age in which there were no bodies on Earth.  For billions of years, the only living creatures on Earth were single-celled organisms which formed ecosystems, symbiotic relationships, and even colonies, but no bodies.  Cells which formed into bodies (i.e. corporantia) changed the world forever.  Assured that they would never need to survive independently, the corporantia began to specialize by function, producing muscles, bones, brains, and so forth.  This turned bodies into the rulers of the Earth.

Then a third kind of cell arose.

The first kind of cell, the single-celled organism, is the most disadvantaged.  The corporantia are better-off because they enjoy the advantages of bodies.  Yet the greatest advantage may be had by a third kind of cell: parasites which benefit from bodies as corporantia do but which are capable of abandoning one body for another.  Social parasites—people who abandon one social body for another—are apparent in the modern trends of multi-national corporations, church-shopping, serial divorce, and high employee turn-over.

From the point of view of corporantia, parasites may play important roles in a body, but their power must be limited.  When parasites have too much power, they suck the life out of one body and move to the next.   Using the labels “evaluativists” and “corporantia” to divide society allows us to address a natural division which existed long before the labels.  The labels allow corporantia to protect the body.  Whether protecting the body benefits parasites or not is debatable: If the supply of bodies is sufficiently threatened, then the survival of a given parasite might require suppression other parasites, but the average parasite probably does not benefit from the labels.

Some corporantia are defenders of institutions, but not all defenders of institutions are corporantia.  The corporantia promote something natural—they are guided by science—but the defenders of institutions promote something man-made.  Since parasites can influence the design of man-made things, some aspects of some man-made institutions may favor parasitism.  That is especially likely in communities with greater social parasitism (e.g. more multi-national corporation, church-shopping, serial divorce, and employee turn-over).  In these cases, corporantia would aim to reform institutions, and parasites would aim to defend those institutions from reform.

The Dialog Challenge

Meaningful dialog is possible only where participants can find common ground.  Therefore, it is impossible for corporantia to engage in meaningful dialog with parasites.  Many parasites might become corporantia if society were structured to discourage parasitism.  That’s not an act of dialog—it’s an act of discipline.

However, even among the corporantia, dialog has a problem:  The members of the corporantia are in natural tension (e.g. gadfly vs institutional vs negotiator vs relational), and the only way for them to find common ground on which to resolve their most fundamental disputes is to examine the origins of their conflicts (and thus distinguish natural tensions from unproductive tensions).  The problem is that not everyone achieves such self-awareness.

A person who is able to recognize the origins of GRIN diversity will discover that it brings advantage to the body as a whole.  Such discovery objectively defines optimal distribution of authority, which in turn provides the common ground required for meaningful dialog with others who make the same discovery.  But not everyone can make that discovery.  Some people will be more ignorant than others.

To put the problem another way, the process of assigning social roles by natural type seems to stretch between

  1. Technical scientific deliberation, and
  2. Interpersonal negotiation

People care which social roles will be assigned to them.  They figure they ought to have a say in anything that can impact their happiness so deeply, so they expect to be engaged in a negotiation.  “No taxation without representation!” they cry.  On the other hand, most people lack the expertise to accurately identify and understand GRIN types.  They do not understand the mechanical nature of their own mind, much less the mechanical nature of our society.  So they are unable to engage in the dialog directly.  The best they can do is to dialog about how to maintain the accountability of the relatively small group of experts who can discern natural social roles.

Citizen Science

The dialog starts with the question of how to identify or develop the experts.  There have been points in history at which science was not sufficiently reliable to address physical health, much less mental or social health—how do we know whether we have passed beyond those points?  If we have not yet passed beyond those points, how do we know what investment we should make to get there?  How can we make sure parasites do not control such investments?

The kind of dialog which can resolve these questions is called “science.”  For example, experiments to replicate already published experiments allow us to measure the reliability of the average published scientific claim.  Experiments can also measure biases in selecting work for publication and in selecting people for employment.  Science can find and address its own flaws.

Most people are not prepared to conduct such experiments, but that’s OK if there are enough people we can trust to conduct them. This is why I propose that citizen science groups which test replicability should be as common and integrated into local communities as bible-study groups and service clubs are.  These groups should keep the experts accountable by testing experiments, including experiments which were rejected from peer-reviewed journals (which, you may be surprised to know, do not actually test the experiments they reject).

 

In the meanwhile, we need other forms of dialog and journalism to spread the new concepts. Science happens only after society reaches a certain level of mental power, and that happens only after other forms of dialog increase our mental power by creating shared language.