Author Topic: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty  (Read 14472 times)

Ixxie

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I have started reading Steven Jay Gould recently, and he had an interesting perspective on the history and status of Evolutionary Theory. He wrote in his 2002 book the Structure of Evolutionary Theory the following from page 32 (emphasis mine):
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As the most striking general contrast that might be illuminated by reference to the different Zeitgeists of Darwin's time and our own, modern revisions for each essential postulate of Darwinian logic substitute mechanics based on interaction for Darwin's single locus of causality and directional flow of effects. Thus, for Darwin's near exclusivity of organismic selection, we now propose a hierarchical theory with selection acting simultaneously on a rising set of levels, each characterized by distinctive, but equally well-defined, Darwinian individuals within a genealogical hierarchy of gene, cell-lineage, organism, deme, species, and clade. The results of evolution then emerge from complex, but eminently knowable, interactions among these potent levels, and do not simply flow out and up from a unique causal locus of organismal selection.

This Holarchic vision of genetic evolution has its parallel in Sociocultural Evolution; the histories of Biology and Economics seem to be eternally intertwined, and Hayek held his support for Group Selection in Sociocultural Evolution. I was googling and found this  paper by Todd J. Zywicki: "Was Hayek Right About Group Selection After All?” Review Essay of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior by Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson. The Abstract reads:

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One of the most controversial aspects of Hayek’s social theory was his acceptance of the concept of cultural group selection. The publication of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior provides an opportunity to revisit this much-maligned component of Hayek’s thought. Sober and Wilson are concerned with biological group selection, but much of their argument is equally applicable to cultural group selection. This essay revisits Hayek’s views on cultural group selection in light of the model proposed by Sober and Wilson. Comparing their model to Hayek’s model suggests that group selection theories are more plausible than traditionally thought and that their viability in any given situation is an empirical, not an a priori, question. So long as there are benefits to a group from greater levels of altruism and cooperation, and so long as free rider problems can be mitigated, group selection models are plausible.

Now - while I do believe that such hierarchical selection plays a significant role on sociocultural evolution, I will allow that we must still collect a lot of empirical evidence to elaborate on the details. But we do not need to know these details, in order to implement them! The following proposal I will call for now EHNIX: the Erisian Holistic Network for Intersubjective Exchange. The structure would consists of units we will call Syndicates - of the order of magnitude of 5-500 people or so. People join by free association and decide their own organizational structure, determining they own actions and goals freely. But what if these in turn established a network and allow them to evolve? But suppose they consider some or all of the following strategies:

  • Free determination and Subsidiarity: The Syndicates collects Resources, Tools, People and Skills suiting the Goals it chooses for itself, and decides on the appropriate actions. Free association and a spirit of subsidiarity would encourage regulatory structures decentralized as much as possible.
  • Organizational Holarchy: Syndicates might forge Unions, Guilds and Schools with other Syndicates, to cooperate in many ways. These in turn might be combined to form even higher level coops.
  • Third Party Contractual Enforcement and Skin in the Game: a trustworthy and impartial third party should be employed to handle contractual disputes between parties on any level of the hierarchy. The appropriate choice depends on context of course. This will provide an ad hoc anarchic judicial network to help maintain cooperation and this group selection. Skin in the Game means every individual and syndicate is responsible for the risks and chances they take, and those responsible should bear the consequences (whether positive or negative).
  • Replication by Crowdfunding: If the Syndicate or Union has Resources to spare, it can consider micro or macro investments in other Syndicates in the network - with or without interest.
  • Innovation: Using Bimodal Strategies the Syndicates might combine the bread-and-butter work with some R&D trial and error tinkering. 
  • Imitation: Syndicates keep a communication network to culture is continuously exchanged - Syndicates might adopt each others Ideas, Skills, Tools and Traditions.
  • Critical and Natural Selection: by the pressures of Ecological and Economic competition, and by the democratic consensus within Syndicates, the traits better promoting the interests of a syndicate would spread.
  • Internal Currencies, Trade and Specialization: by use of internal currencies, different syndicates or unions could encourage trade between their members, and localize capital. Specialization will allow for a great diversity in the abilities and products of the network.
  • Emergency Funds and Resources - Frugality and Redundancy: Taxes could be voluntarily agreed upon, and a the funds can be used to create an Emergency Funds and Resources. Budget will never be allowed to go into deficit, and over-leveraging will be avoiding. The extra resources be used to help accommodate individuals in distress and take advantage of opportunities but will not bail out failed projects unless there was no other choice, and will certainly ensure those responsible pay a price.
  • Antifragile Heuristics, Evolving Evolvability and the Bar Bell: The above Heuristics are intended to make the evolving structure Adaptive, Antifragile - to minimize exposure to negative Black Swans and maximize exposure to Positive Black Swans. A Bimodal Strategy is implemented, maintaining redundant critical resources as well and tools while tinkering with experiments on all levels. This is intended to keep Options diverse and Evolvability high. Sometimes what begins as a joke might end up a serious project - and this strategy aims to permit little things to grow while keeping a safety net for people.
I am quite convinced that some variant of the sketch propounded here - when implemented with enough people and resources - could be is sufficient to at least reaching a level of economic and technologic autonomy sufficient for the basic sustenance, safety and shelter (as history has proven). But I also think we could reproduce many other products of modernity in this way as well - producing critical supplies like antibiotics and basic electronic and mechanical tools on our own. Probably in many ways it might be able to them better, if tuned right. I am also convinced that the growth of such a network is feasible and sustainable in the current climate and civilization. Not only that - if successful it could survive many disasters which other current social structures are fragile to. Thus - this Network might hide in the Shadows of current Nation State Paradigm - waiting for its collapse prepared.

Personally I hope to find people with whom to implement such ideas, specifically a Permaculture / Hunting / Fishing based Syndicate operating in Central Europe, that dabbles in Nonsense, Scientific Research, Artistic Articulation, Philosophical Inquiry and Cunning Craft - a plan I codenamed Project Hydra. The wiki this article is on is called Fluxcraft and I opened it with the intent of discussing ideas in this direction, as well as others.

Open Questions:
  • Does this seem feasible?
  • Does anybody know any existing projects in this direction?
  • What kind of problems would you foresee?
  • Which heuristics, strategies and concepts would you add or remove from this list?
  • Anybody interested in helping me develop this concept farther in a serious way, even trying to implement it eventually?
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 04:01:22 am by Ixxie »
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Kai

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I think it's important not to assume that group selection exists. Because the more I study these phenomonena, the more I am inclined to believe it doesn't. You've undoubtedly read Gould's stuff on Multi-Level Selection (MLS) theory. With a careful rereading of The Selfish Gene, I've found that such things are unnecessary. You have selection on individuals, or on alleles within a population, and there is a constant fluctuation as the number of cheaters gain and loose ground around a stable ratio. It's not the actions of a group, but the actions of individuals, that keeps the number of cheaters at that level, because the non cheater individuals will only tolerate so much cheating. All of these apparent MLS systems, from populations up to ecosystems, are actually just complicated balancing acts. When it works out, you get dynamically stable systems. When it doesn't, the systems go extinct. So, no, don't apply MLS theory or group selection to sociocultural evolution, not only because MLS is false, but because biological and sociocultural evolution aren't homologous. 
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Ixxie

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Admittedly I am of the Gouldian camp. I feel Dawkins' reductionist approach is naive, and fails to model many of the higher order dynamics. I feel the attempt to reduce phenomenon in complex systems to a purely bottom-up edifice could never be satisfactory in describing evolutionary process. Instead - this perspective might be combined with the top-down effects of evolution on the higher levels pushing down. The nativity of Dawkins' position stems, in my opinion, from a naive rationalistic tendencies. Species, Genes, Organisms, Cell Lineages, Clades - all qualify as a Darwinian Individual. I would definitely agree lower level process constitutes the primary dynamic, but think that higher order dynamics create significant punctuations to stasis best modeled separately. Thus perhaps the null hypothesis is to try and explain by lower level process, but if this fails look for higher level causes. The evolution of Social Cognitive Mechanisms for example could be explained by individual level evolution but once such an adaptation fixates in the group it may have a great advantage compared to other groups. The spread from this point onwards is best modeled on the group selection level. We can only assume the spread of a gene between groups and within groups operates on different levels, and the statistical properties would be different. But this idea of modeling this kind of system only on one level seems absurd to me.

The big conceptual here is dependence. For me the biotic top down force is one of frequency dependent selection - ecological pressure. The environment steers the function by natural selection. The joint distribution of genes is not the same as the sum of the marginals. The who is greater than the sum of its parts. I concede I lack erudition on the empirical evidence in this regard. My understanding comes from a relative theoretical position, even though I do try and preoccupy myself with data too. However - I do feel that punctuated equilibrium and the prevalence of power law distributions, as well a variety of other clearly emergent phenomenon - are quite loud and clear. The argument for higher order models is one for modeling how dynamics on one level emerge from the one below, and conversely how the fitness landscape of the level below is steered by the one above.

I would note that I posted that not to argue that hierarchy is necessarily a correct model of nature - but that it would be a useful organizational principle. Whether or not this occurs in Biology - it certainly occurs in Economics and Sociocultural Evolution at large.
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Kai

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Species, Genes, Organisms, Cell Lineages, Clades - all qualify as a Darwinian Individual.

No, they don't. Species is not a "Darwinian individual" (have I mentioned yet how much I hate the use of "Darwinian?), nor are clades. If you want to pose such a thing you are going to actually point to a species. And I don't mean a vague concept of meta populations, I mean an actual physical thing. Given that my primary work is taxonomy and systematics, and given one of the long term major questions of those fields is "what is a species?", I am unwilling to let you stand on that statement because my experience tells me it doesn't have legs.

Edit: nor frankly are the rest of those things except "Organisms".
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Ixxie

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Species, Genes, Organisms, Cell Lineages, Clades - all qualify as a Darwinian Individual.

No, they don't. Species is not a "Darwinian individual" (have I mentioned yet how much I hate the use of "Darwinian?), nor are clades. If you want to pose such a thing you are going to actually point to a species. And I don't mean a vague concept of meta populations, I mean an actual physical thing. Given that my primary work is taxonomy and systematics, and given one of the long term major questions of those fields is "what is a species?", I am unwilling to let you stand on that statement because my experience tells me it doesn't have legs.

Edit: nor frankly are the rest of those things except "Organisms".

Like any model is "the real thing" xD never mind, I will do more reading and prove you wrong one day ^^ or not, who cares.
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Kai

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Species, Genes, Organisms, Cell Lineages, Clades - all qualify as a Darwinian Individual.

No, they don't. Species is not a "Darwinian individual" (have I mentioned yet how much I hate the use of "Darwinian?), nor are clades. If you want to pose such a thing you are going to actually point to a species. And I don't mean a vague concept of meta populations, I mean an actual physical thing. Given that my primary work is taxonomy and systematics, and given one of the long term major questions of those fields is "what is a species?", I am unwilling to let you stand on that statement because my experience tells me it doesn't have legs.

Edit: nor frankly are the rest of those things except "Organisms".

Like any model is "the real thing" xD never mind, I will do more reading and prove you wrong one day ^^ or not, who cares.

I care. Otherwise I would have ignored it. The point is, creating these "higher level models" may help you understand something by simplifying the total number of calculations, but selection is still on individuals. Just like we talk about biology and chemistry with the full understanding that everything in the universe is amplitudes in configuration. There isn't a "higher level dynamic", but pretending there is might help model the system. This is an important contrast to make, between the models and the actual metaphysics. And that's where MLS theory slips away from reality, because it not only uses those higher level models, but posits higher level causes. There aren't any. All the organisms that are around today are the function of all the selective pressures on individual organisms in the past. It's not a very satisfying answer because you can't model all that mess. It's also not satisfying because there's no plan to it, no "whole greater than sum of parts",  no emergence. But no one said it had to be satisfying.

Another thing: It's best not to read too much into power law distributions, especially in taxonomy and systematics. The distribution of species across genera or families, for example. I've found, in my own calculations, that it's usually a log normal distribution, and seldom if ever a power law.
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Ixxie

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From what I have seen in even very simple models - ignoring emergence and top-down effects like this is folly. At the very least, top-down pressures are theoretically possible. Of course this might be empirically invalid, but I doubt that too. You can reformulate such things back to lower level processes, but it doesn't change the fact that the joint fitness distribution is fundamentally different than the marginals. One could attempt to reduce the object of selection to a lowest level, but the intensity will always depend on higher order structures. When you construct the mean field equations for the frequency of a low level network structure, it always depends directly on higher order moments (just as they depend on lower level structures).

You seem to contend that apparent higher order process is a phantom that emerges from 'real' lower level process. It seems to me that this position is mostly a byproduct of a long tradition of reductionism and mechanism. I would agree that bottom-up process seems to dominates but contend that in a similar way lower level effects can be considered as phantoms emerging from higher order process.  All the levels are always modeling a process so complex and opaque I would hardly call any of these simplifications 'real', let alone dare to point to a seeming dynamic on any particular level and say that this and this level alone is the causal source. I remain skeptical about the realism of any model of evolutionary process. However - I much prefer making the null hypothesis co-causal and asymmetric - for it seems that most of the time bottom up process predominates but once in a while top down dynamics are critical.

I was referring to power law distributions in other contexts. I don't know much about taxonomy and systemics to be honest. It just seems to me at the moment that hierarchical selection theory - which could be conceived as thing else but a separation of temporal and phylogenetic scales for the purpose of theoretical analysis -  provides a far more lucid perspective. I admittedly lack experience and erudition here, so consider this my naive theoretical position for the moment. I will hopefully learn more - especially on the empirical domain - and be able to reevaluate this position with either empirical support or refutation.
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Ixxie, I gladly encourage you to continue your line of thought, but I must caution you: Kai KNOWS HIS SHIT. You had best do your research and have a SOLID ground to speak from. But I kind of want you to half-ass it, because it's been a long time since I've seen Kai go off on someone, and I kind of miss it.

Kai

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Ixxie, I gladly encourage you to continue your line of thought, but I must caution you: Kai KNOWS HIS SHIT. You had best do your research and have a SOLID ground to speak from. But I kind of want you to half-ass it, because it's been a long time since I've seen Kai go off on someone, and I kind of miss it.

To be honest, I don't really understand most of the posts. It's all theoretical evolutionary biology. I work with "experimental" evolutionary biology (in so far as historical sciences can be considered experimental; some people call them "natural experiments". I prefer the terms "observational", "historical", or just plain "natural history"). So I could only really address the points that I was familiar with, the parts about MLS and metaphysics of species. The rest, I'm really stretching, or completely lost. On the other hand, if I hadn't posted Ixxie might have gotten no replies. If I can barely follow some of it, and it's nearly up my alley, then I doubt anyone else reading it can either.

I do have a hard time with throwing the word "emergence" around like a noun. Might as well say "phlogiston". And that's /after/ a semester of chaos/complexity theory.
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Ixxie

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Ixxie, I gladly encourage you to continue your line of thought, but I must caution you: Kai KNOWS HIS SHIT. You had best do your research and have a SOLID ground to speak from. But I kind of want you to half-ass it, because it's been a long time since I've seen Kai go off on someone, and I kind of miss it.

To be honest, I don't really understand most of the posts. It's all theoretical evolutionary biology. I work with "experimental" evolutionary biology (in so far as historical sciences can be considered experimental; some people call them "natural experiments". I prefer the terms "observational", "historical", or just plain "natural history"). So I could only really address the points that I was familiar with, the parts about MLS and metaphysics of species. The rest, I'm really stretching, or completely lost. On the other hand, if I hadn't posted Ixxie might have gotten no replies. If I can barely follow some of it, and it's nearly up my alley, then I doubt anyone else reading it can either.

I do have a hard time with throwing the word "emergence" around like a noun. Might as well say "phlogiston". And that's /after/ a semester of chaos/complexity theory.

Questioning the validity of these entities as valid units in evolutionary models is critical, so I completely understand where you are coming from. Some units are far more potent than others in describing the process. However - I would point out that all biological entities are equally theoretical constructs. How 'real' these constructs are depends not only on empirical data - but also on your particular philosophy of science.

I can only speak for my position - and I am skeptical of our ability to know the reality of even the simplest of systems, let alone complex systems (especially those which such a ancient and opaque history). However, from my perspective, this makes the discussion of emergence all the more important. The concept is vague and broad - but this in itself doesn't invalidate its value in research. I use the term Emergence to describe a class of processes describing how local microscopic processes spontaneously produce global macroscopic phenomena. I agree that any theories regarding emergence (and indeed any complex process) would always be crude approximations of the reality. Moreover - its a statistical nightmare, and there are great methodological issues with the empirical study of these processes. But can you deny that even the most conservative theories of evolution stipulate emergence in this sense? I think the history of science points to great success from thinking in these terms. If you know of a solid critique of emergence - I would love to read it; the wikipedia article does not even seem to have a 'criticisms' section.

Now the distinction you seem to make between using the term as noun or verb seems moot; we can very well assume there is no such thing as a noun at all and translate all nouns into verbs. In fact there are even languages that seem to have no distinction of noun and verb. Comparing emergence to "phlogiston" seems to me misguided, even backwards. A phlogiston is a hypothetical unobserved microscopic object which was proposed as a cause of a macroscopic process. Emergence is a theory of how observable microscopic phenomenon aggregate to observable macroscopic phenomenon.

I have a hard time throwing the word emergence out of my scientific vocabulary. Might as well embrace it. And that's /after/ 4-5 years of biomathematics.

I look forward to more discussion Kai - I definitely have a lot to learn from you. I am shamefully lacking in my knowledge of actual empirical work, I was only permitted a couple of courses in this direction in my master. It's good at least somebody replied; I am increasingly realizing how incomprehensible I have become, even after trying very hard to make my point clearly. I guess I'm one of *those* guys now.  :horrormirth:

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Kai

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Re: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2013, 04:11:00 am »
I just wanted to say: I had a lecture today.

Actually, I had two lectures, but one of them was an exhaustively thorough approach to basic vector and matrix work in R programming language. This isn't about that.

This lecture today, taught by a professor in toxicology. She's one of the 10 or so invited lectures for the class, as it's an integrative PhD level course with lectures and journal article discussions. She was talking about the cellular and molecular biology of a particular aromatic hydrocarbon, intended as an introduction to one area of environmental biology. It was a rather technical talk, lots of acronyms, special terms, very little background on the nitty gritty of methods. She also hasn't taught in a while.

All of this would have been fine if we were a class primarily composed of biology PhD students. But, given that this is an integrative program, it was a broad mix of physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology students. Mostly all the former. She would come to a slide and have these figures of a Western blot and ask "what does this indicate about so and so receptor?" I was pretty much the only person answering.

In other words, she was talking way over the heads and knowledge levels of the students in the class. And because of this, they were neither engaged nor understanding the material. And these aren't slack off freshman undergrads, mind you, these are PhD level students, most of which have a master's degree long since under their belts. These are people who will be doctors within the next 5 years.

Though I was /getting it/ (mostly), it wasn't really enjoyable because I knew all the terms and abbreviations and lack of explanations were failing to engage my colleagues and it wasn't because the material was too hard to handle.

Something to keep in mind before your next science post.
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Ixxie

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Re: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2013, 09:41:44 am »
Well I am trying to figure out a way to communicate this better. My usual approach is to speak without parsing my language because I generally don't like it when people do it to me; when there is a term I am unfamiliar with I ask for an explanation. However - I guess there is a point where you get so deep into this shit to a degree blind to the incomprehensible jargon in your logorrhea.

I guess maybe I should post a more chronological sequence and develop the ideas more slowly instead of using my usual retroactive explanations. This and other experiences make me start to seriously doubt my abilities to explain these issues clearly, so maybe I should do it to improve my communication skills.
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Re: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 02:21:21 pm »
I think Ixxie just got burned and didn't notice?

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Re: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2013, 02:32:34 pm »
I think Ixxie just got burned and didn't notice?

Yeah

I also want to say, I've read Gould and Dawkins, I'm a biology student, but I scanned the posts in this thread and stopped reading because they didn't make sense, which means that either it's over my head or it's bullshit and either way it's not for me.
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Re: EHNIX: Evolving a Grass-Roots Fractal Syndicalistic Holarchy under Subsidiaty
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 02:34:12 pm »
My impression, and I say this admitting that I haven't even tried to read most of his posts, is that he's throwing around a lot of jargon and not really saying anything much.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”