I believe that the current worldwide obsession with metrics and productivity is one of the major reasons behind the ongoing collapse of the status quo. The reasons behind my belief stem from two intertwining aspects of the metrics and productivity charade.
1. Any hierarchical system that uses metrics and productivity to promote people is doomed to being gamed by marginally competent but clever scamsters.
2. Since the system promotes scamsters, it keeps on concentrating them in the upper levels of the hierarchy till that organization can no longer serve its original function.
You can see the negative effect of our obsession with metrics and productivity in areas as diverse as academia, law enforcement to manufacturing. In every single case, it follow a rather predictable trajectory starting with an initial apparent increase in productivity followed by a slow decline and hollowing out of that institution. This trajectory is a result of the fact that metrics and productivity end up rewarding people without any consideration for the effects of doing so- aka perverse incentives. As I had mentioned in an older post- this is a circular problem since perverse incentives create the need for more metrics and other measurements of productivity.
It is as if we are promoting and rewarding cancerous cells to grow faster while simultaneously starving and inhibiting healthy cells.
But why would most people go along with this scenario? In my opinion, it comes down to the popularity of short-term magical thinking whereby most people believe that they might become successful petty tyrants themselves. However magical thinking though necessary is not sufficient and has to be normalized with a lot of bullshit about metrics and productivity.
Metrics and productivity should then be seen attempts to normalize cancerous behavior.
I will explain that idea further in a couple of upcoming posts.
Another somewhat older music video by Mark Romanek.
I have previously talked about various reasons behind the inevitable decay of corporations, countries and empires. One peculiar reason, which I have have previously hinted at but never discussed at any length, is the problem of increasing short-termism in large organisations. But that presents a rational paradox- why would a large and stable organisation become more obsessed with the short-term as it becomes bigger and potentially more stable?
It comes down to promotions- or who is promoted in the hierarchy.
To understand this problem it is necessary to grasp the idea that an organisation which grows bigger has to promote people up the hierarchy. In my opinion and observations, promoted people fall into two broad categories.
Brown Nosing Charlatans: Most promotions in any organisation go to people who kiss ass, scheme, plot, try to bamboozle and are generally the least competent of the bunch. However they are also the most politically savvy, connected and charming. The net result is that promotions tend to concentrate scheming incompetents in the hierarchy such that they come to run the system- with predictable results.
Competent People: Unless there is an external challenge, war or disaster they account for the minority of promotions. Under steady state conditions, only a few are promoted- mainly to keep the organisation from falling apart. Even their promotion is meaningless as they now have to clean up more of the messes left behind by the brown nosing charlatans.
Therefore all large hierarchies are run by, and for, incompetent but cunning schemers.
The next question then is – How do the scheming incompetents demonstrate enough competence to make their promotions looks partially legit? or are they promoted for no other reason than favoritism and politicking.
It is the answer to this question which reveals a fundamental flaw in the current methodology of legitimizing promotions. Since all legitimization comes down to metrics- an incompetent person who is politically savvy can game the system to show better performance than a competent person who won’t sink the ship to make it run faster. Actions geared towards fluffing the short-term will often look good on the 3 month to 1 year time scale, even though they will sink the ship in the medium term and beyond. Since the rise of brown nosing charlatans in organisations is linked to short-term shenanigans, they simply do more of them (and on a larger scale) as they are promoted upwards until the organisation falls apart. The lucky ones then jump into other organisations and continue their ‘work’.
Therefore all large organisations which have existed for a while without a serious external challenge are always run and controlled by incompetent but politically savvy people who will game the system to progressively greater degrees thereby making it malfunction and ultimately implode. Usually the demise of such systems is facilitated by a emerging, younger and less incompetent organisation- until it becomes what it defeated.
However this cycle is not inevitable, as long as people in the organisation understand what is really going on and are prepared to act on it. In the past- poor communication, low levels of literacy and family obligations kept people quiet. That is however no longer the case and things will change, though it won’t be aesthetically pleasing to many.
Lots of symbolism.. Illuminated eyes, Doric columns, Eye of Horus, Isis, Hathor, Sword of Damocles and so on.
I am going to make an assertion that flies in the face of what currently goes for american ‘common’ sense.
Stability of income is significantly more important than its quantity.
To put it another way, a person with a mediocre but very stable income will have a very different world view and lifestyle from someone who makes significantly more (income) but from an unstable source. Let us be clear about a few things- upfront. The mediocre, but stable income, must be enough for a person to meaningfully engage in civil society. So welfare, social security, life behind bars etc does not count as mediocre, but stable, income or livelihoods.
But why is the stability of an income source more important than its size?
Conventional explanations for this phenomena usually take the form of some bullshit about ‘future time orientation’. However any and all such explanations are full of shit because they do not factor in the most important factor concerning the income stream of most people.
The vast majority of people don’t write their own paycheck!
Therefore income stability is not linked to some bullshit ‘race-realist’ drivel, ‘STEM’ jobs or education but to something far more fundamental, trans-cultural and trans-racial. All reasons invoked by CONservatives or LIEbertarians fall flat because they cannot explain why a willing, competent and otherwise reasonable person cannot get a reasonably stable job, which in the current system is the major source of income for most people. A society that cannot provide income (jobs) or any other alternate means of a humane sustenance has failed a very basic test- it has removed all rational reasons for the affected person to participate in that society other than to main, cripple, torture and kill other members of that society.
Income stability is therefore a very good proxy for the health of the ‘social contract’ in any given society.
The problems caused by an unstable income stream are however even more expansive in nature- for they not only reflect a broken social contract but cause a variety of responses which ultimately doom that society. Let me explain-
Take 2 men, person A and person B. Imagine that person A makes 50k/year in a somewhat monotonous, but very stable, 40 hours/week job. Person B makes 80-90k/year but in a unstable industry where job changes, frequent moves and prolonged unemployment between jobs is common. Moreover the industry in which person B works discriminates against older workers. Now put yourself in both their shoes and imagine how you would live, act and see the world around you.
Even though person A makes less than person B, he is reasonably sure where his next paycheck, his next year’s paychecks and even the next decade’s paychecks are going to come from. He can therefore plan his life around that rhythm and develop relationships, buy stuff and be generally involved in the society around him. In contrast, person B is spending most of his time looking for the next job, trying to get information about the latest round of layoffs and spending his time just trying to keep up. Because of the frequent layoffs, firings, moves etc he has no interest in developing relationships and is very cynical about human beings and society in general. To make a long story short- person B won’t invest in or care about preserving society because he has no stake in its stability and well being.
Under reasonably stable conditions, both A and B will act ‘normal’. The fun begins once the overall system becomes more stressed and unstable. While person A will try to stabilize the system and cooperate with others who want to do so, person B will take that a cue to explode, bail out, withdraw or join an ideology that promises a fair share of the loot to its followers. It really comes down to whether there are enough person As to stop person Bs from capsizing a stressed socio-economic system.
The astute reader will note that income streams which created person As were the the norm in post-ww2 period. However the silent neo-liberal/neo-conservative revolution of the 1980s have put an increasing number of people in the person B situation (if they are lucky). It all appeared to work OK till the mid-1990s, when a significant number of people born of person As realized that they had no choice but to become person Bs. I would go so far as to say that most people born after 1970 are person Bs.
However the real impact of their rising numbers requires reduction in the number of person As in the working age group and a series of serious socio-economic crises which test the system. As some of you might have realized we are entering, or have already entered, that situation.
My prediction is that every honest or crooked attempt to stabilize and calm the system will paradoxically make it worse, because our ideas about pacifying people are meant to work on person A, not person B.
What do you think? Comments?
Many people, especially CONservatives, believe that a lack of central planning is one of the major advantages of capitalism over communism. This feature supposedly allows capitalism to be significantly more flexible, innovative and market oriented than communism.
But is that really true, especially today?
Contrary to what many of you believe, central planning is not unique to communism, socialism or any other -ism. It occurs in a variety of hierarchical systems where there are few or no consequences for screwups by megalomaniacs.
Central planning is, therefore, the ultimate result of a set of beliefs-
1. A few people at the top “know what is right for everyone”.
2. These ‘elites’ have no little to no accountability.
3. They do not suffer adverse consequences subsequent to their failures.
4. The ability to kiss ass and defraud others is your biggest asset.
5. Professional competence is your biggest liability.
6. Organisations are run without any consideration to their official purpose.
Now look around you. Did you notice that the defining features of central planning are remarkably similar to what we see in corporate america today?
The corporate leaders and ‘job creators’ who run large corporations are as arrogant, corrupt, vain and stupid as those in equivalent positions in the erstwhile USSR. Moreover like their soviet counterparts, they too rarely suffer adverse consequences for failures and fuckups. Their underlings are chosen and promoted based on the ability to kiss the right asses and fuck over those who work under them. Knowledge about the products and services offered by a corporation is the biggest impediment to a persons rise up the corporate ladder. Major and minor decisions in corporations are now almost exclusively based on their potential to deliver short-term benefits for senior management and their friends, to the detriment of long-term investors, workers and even their customers. All of the above is them justified as result of complex ‘studies’ and deliberations by objective ‘experts’- when in reality they are utterly dishonest shills.
To put it another way, so called “professional management” in capitalism is functionally indistinguishable from the much maligned central planning seen in communist countries. We just happened to start from a higher point and have not yet reached the level of dysfunction and loss of public trust seen in 1980-era USSR, though we are certain to enter that zone within the next three years.
You might have recently seen many pictures like this, or this one and this one showing cops abusing their power. Many of the right and some on the left are trying to rationalize these actions with a variety explanations from preserving ‘law and order’, a ‘few bad apples’ and even some sympathy for them not being able to ‘show weakness’.
In my opinion, all of these explanations are utter bullshit. What you are seeing is ‘normalized’ sociopathic evil and they are in it together. There is no excuse for people who are busy finding new ways to abuse their authority every single day day and night.
The real question is- what happens next? Whether you like it or not, the current ‘law and order’ system which abuses many for the benefit of a few is a feature of ponzi-scheme based ‘civilizations’. Its very existence is fundamentally incompatible with the current capabilities and and a worthwhile future for you.
They are unwilling and fundamentally incapable of accepting any limitations on their power to abuse, just like those who worked for Hitler and Stalin. They don’t want things to change and are quite happy to be in a job which allows them to abuse people for good pay and potentially sweet pensions deals. They won’t stop as long as they are alive and physically capable of doing that job. Any real change will come after you start seeing them as fundamentally evil and incapable of change. Let’s see how long you will keep denying the obvious- cancerous cells don’t care about others and there are no good cancer cells.
Whether you realize it or not- recent events and their widespread publicity via the internet in combination with the the current socio-economic-demographic situation and direction of change has set into motion something that nobody can now stop.
Tyrants come in two sizes: the larger-than-life ones (Stalin, Churchill, Hitler, Mao, your average billionaire) and petty tyrants who work in the system to benefit the previous category. This second category ,which I have mentioned in previous posts, include occupations such as the police, judiciary, bureaucracy, small businessmen, physicians etc and do most of the dirty work for their leaders or systems.
As I have mentioned in a very recent post, it is these people who get the brunt of popular anger during systemic changes. I am now proposing that the development and ubiquity of technology will increase the effectiveness of popular anger against this group to hitherto unprecedented levels.
The vulnerability of petty tyrants comes from a peculiar feature of their position in the system. While they are the enforcers and henchmen of far bigger tyrants they have almost none of the real perks.
The average petty tyrant does not have multiple houses in countries, accounts in off-shore banks, private jets or any of the other means to escape popular genocidal anger. Most of them live in middle to upper-middle class neighbourhoods where everybody knows who they are, where there kids play, where they shop, what their driving routes are like.. you get the picture.
The only thing that stands between them and overt or covert retribution is the general belief that their existence is more desirable than their demise. Note the words ‘general belief’ not ‘fact’ or ‘truth’.
One of the consequences of our connected age is that media has fragmented to the extent that it no longer possible to feed narratives, stories, myths to a population- especially the younger age groups. The TV, Radio, Newspaper and Magazine are no longer the principles sources of information about the outside world. This has caused a massive decrease in the ability of those in control of mass media to influence popular thought, especially in the younger age groups.
The first signs of this change were obvious by the mid 1960s, when images from Vietnam started to change public opinion in a direction contrary to the motives of elites. However they still controlled the channels of dissemination. That is no longer the case and we cannot go back to that era even if we wanted to because of negative effects on general logistics and a host of other reasons that I do not want to talk about right now.
So how does all of this affect the well being of petty tyrants?
Here is how-
1. It destroys whatever little anonymity they had.
Between ubiquitous digital cameras, face recognition, social media, fairly basic data correlation and hackable databases and accounts- it is now possible to obtain the identity and other information about any petty tyrant. You can find who wrote to them, the pictures their lovers sent them, their worldview, their online purchases and a host of other information useful to exploit their weakness or deficits.
2. It exposes their internal world to public scrutiny.
The technological leaps described in 1 also allow us to create a far more hate-worthy profile of that person. You become aware of their biases, abuses and scams in a far more personal way. Moreover they can no longer deny their willingness to do questionable stuff based on a persona lack of knowledge. Thus humanizing them makes them much more grotesque and destroys the element of sympathy due to plausible deniability.
3. It spreads the word about a person, group or profession.
This is by far the most important effect of connectivity. In previous eras, spreading a lot of information that went contrary to the wishes of those who owned the mass media was basically impossible. Today a multitude of methods for person-to-person communication make it easy and extremely effective. There is a reason cynicism about the system and various privileged occupations has gone up so much in the last decade.
4. It allows a buildup of negative perceptions about a given person, group or profession.
Since people often search for more information about something or somebody online, previous experiences obtained through search engines or online peers will influence how people feel about a given incident. In previous eras, people could not pool their knowledge about negative experiences with anything approaching the efficiency and ease of access possible today. Therefore negative perceptions against individuals or groups can keep building up.
Moreover, filtering search results or blocking queries only makes people believe the worst- and people can store data on their computers and memory media or encrypt communications to the level that they are functionally effective.
So where does this all lead to?
Imagine you wanted information about somebody or something that bothered you in 2011. Any person with half-decent computer skills could get tons of information about anything or anybody within a few minutes on a smartphone or a inexpensive laptop. Unless that person took great pains to cover their tracks- you could locate them, their kids, grand-kids, parents, grandparents and much more personal information, if you really wanted to find out.
Now combine the general feeling of being wronged, an atomized society and such information. Do you see its potential to ‘change’ society at very fundamental level.
Some of you might say that- “that has not yet happened on a large scale”. My answer is- “such capability is very new and has existed on a large scale for only the last 5 years.. maybe decade”. Large forest fires require both a critical fuel density and enough time for that one ‘inconvenient’ spark to start them.
These links are NSFW.
Cute Suckers: Nov 19, 2011 -Cuties playing the skin flute..
Educated Suckers: Nov 19, 2011 -Are educated girls better skin flute players?
I have, in few of my previous posts, written about the link between gross income inequality and the rise of populist tyrants. However few people dare to honestly answer the next logical question-
How can these populist tyrants get away with policies that are clearly genocidal? Don’t their murderous followers have no heart?
All populist tyrants start with genocides against the petty tyrants of the old system. It is no coincidence that police, judges, other officials, bankers, merchants and bureaucrats of the previous regime are always the first to end up in ‘work’ camps and mass graves.
Petty tyrants are easy pickings for a few reasons-
1. There are enough of them to keep a murderous crowd happy for a long time.
2. They represent the face of the previous regime.
3. People know where they live and work.
4. They lose a lot of power after the old regime falls.
5. They are too tainted to incorporate on a large scale in the new regime.
6. Their previous ‘masters’ discard them at the first sign of doom.
Once you understand these simple, and rather obvious facts, it is easy to see why petty tyrants from the old regime end up in mass graves with such regularity. Indeed, most populist tyrants would never come to power in the first place if petty tyrants understood their limitations.
Ask yourself- If there was a free for all tomorrow, wouldn’t people who represent the public face of the current system end up dead at a disproportionately higher rate than say.. people with average jobs?
As some of you might have heard and seen, the police response to the ‘Occupy‘ movement has more in common with totalitarian states than anything vaguely resembling respect for due process and fairness. Police “actions”, and their increased militarization, are making news because their victims are now increasingly white, female, old, educated and certainly not poor.
In light of these developments, I propose that police in the US adopt a uniform that is far more fashionable and authentic to their role in American society. There is no reason to look like a schlub when you can dress in something designed by Hugo Boss- himself.
What do you think? Comments?
Have you ever wondered why “mature” and “older” cultures are often incapable of improving or evolving into something better suited to the present? You can see this phenomena in cultures and nations as diverse as Japan, Korea, Egypt, India, China, Greece, Italy, France, Germany or England. They just can’t seem to move on from some point in history.
I have previously written about how societies are negatively impacted by the sclerosis of customs and mores . But how do they reach that point anyway? To understand this phenomena one has to first appreciate the real nature of customs, mores and why they are so dangerous to societies that have accumulated a lot of them.
Customs, mores and institutions come into being to facilitate social functioning. However they are, by their very nature, rooted in a very narrow set of social conditions that gave rise to them. They work well in the begining but become progressively less useful as that society moves further away from the set of conditions under which they were formed. The problem then is not the existence of customs, mores and institutions per se but their persistence past their point of usefulness.
Consider Japanese society.. its customs, mores and institutions are based on a world that ceased to exist over 150 years ago. It is no longer an insular society of a few katana-wielding nobles abusing a population of rice eating subsistence farmers. But is obvious that their worldview has not changed since that era. The sheer number of inscrutable customs and mores which have no relevance to the world we live in might appear charming to an outsider, but are destroying their society as we speak. The same can be said of Korea, China or any other east-Asian country with similar worldviews.
In my opinion, outdated customs and mores are toxic to societies in the following ways-
1. Customs and mores that are not helpful in the present still occupy the time and “mind-space” of people. Living in a society with many traditions and customs forces people to devote a lot of time and energy to worthless endeavours such as complex greetings, social cues, gift-giving and other social rituals which do not make them happy or improve social functioning in a changing environment.
2. Systems with tons of legacy customs and mores adversely affect the ability to make major changes and people are left patching up the mistakes of their ancestors while pretending that they are not fixing mistakes. The high rates of domestic savings in Japan, systems of hiring workers, institutions are the product of an era when those ideas worked. But those very attributes have failed them in the last 20 years.
3. Legacy customs are mores make societies spend their time and resources rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic, in addition to the previously mentioned fixing of mistakes, and loudly proclaiming that all is well even as they are visibly engaged in trying to patch the holes in a manner that is likely to fail. This state of affairs also bolsters cognitive dissonance in the population making reform or change even harder.
4. Such societies are too sclerotic to support those who could institute real reform or change. Instead they spend considerable effort persecuting people who even dare to point out the obvious, let alone try to fix them.
5. While they can often survive longer than expected, just like dodos, these dysfunctional systems are very fragile. They can therefore collapse without any warning, or serious challenge, largely because they cannot withstand stresses which nominally functional systems can endure.
Every second wasted on legacy customs, mores and rituals is time forever lost from doing something that might work better or be more relevant.
Ever wondered why some people are sociopathic? Implicit in that question is the secondary question, or wish, that they could change for the better. If you believe that, I have a bad news-
A dodo cannot stop being a dodo, a virus cannot stop being a virus nor can a bunch of cancer cells stop being cancerous.
Similarly a MBA cannot stop being shortsighted, a businessman cannot stop being a CONman, a doctor cannot stop being a delusional control freak, a politician cannot stop lying, a police cannot stop being a petty tyrant, a professor cannot stop exploiting his students, a lawyer cannot stop suing and a CEO cannot stop looting.
They will keep on doing what they do till they are dead, from “natural” or unnatural causes.
The road towards a somewhat better world has to be paved with the bones of those who oppose it. There is no room for mercy, compromise or understanding because those who are blocking your path don’t see you as a human anyway. Why not return the favor?
Some of you might say- but doesn’t that lead to many unnecessary casualties?
My answer to that objection is- IF you feel that you have been wronged to a level and extent that is not redressable by the system, you have no reason to continue playing nice with it and its supporters. At some stage all widely held concepts of ‘right’,’wrong’,’fair’ or ‘unfair’ can become meaningless and the everything and anything is justifiable.
Do you really think that CEOs will stop looting the system if you pass new laws? Do you really think bad laws can be changed through the legislative process? Do you think that professors will become less petty when confronted by reality? Do you think that cops will willingly give up the perks of being a petty tyrant? Do you think that better people will ever enter politics? Do you think physicians will develop a moral compass? Do you think businessmen can stop cheating and screwing their customers? Do you think that MBAs are going to be able to appreciate the benefits of long-term thinking?
Even non-violent movements require a very real threat of violence to make them work. MLKs non-violent struggle for black civil rights succeeded because the alternate option was so much worse for white america. The new deal reforms and socialism for american whites occurred because the alternate option was once again worse for the ‘elites’.
However there are occasions when sociopaths are so detached from reality or so full of themselves that they ignore the obvious and dare the other side to act- and that is when things get interesting.
Now that multimedia capable and touchscreen driven tablet computers by both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have joined the iPad and its android analogues in the marketplace, I see the potential for a revolution in the type and form of comic books, especially those published by non-famous authors and artists.
Until like 2 years ago you average non-famous, but talented, comic book creator had the following crappy options-
1. Self publish something on the web and hope his work is noticed by big dead-tree publishers.
2. Self publish something on the web and try to monetize it by himself.
3. Create flash-based toons and put them on their own website, blog, YouTube or similar sites to gain cred and attempt 1 or 2- again.
As you can see, they lacked the ability to easily monetize their creativity. Moreover, even the best artist and creative mind cannot refine their craft if they don’t relieve adequate exposure and feedback.
The arrival of the iPad and its imitators created the ability to inexpensively view high quality visual content with the same ease as reading a book. The concurrent birth of a few unified marketplaces such as those created by apple and amazon to sell applications and content for their devices are the second piece of this potential revolution.
So, we now have a situation where independent comic book creators with good ideas and a decent computer plus some software could create something that can be easily monetized. While this new set of conditions is not going to make millionaires out of every aspiring comic book creator- they still represent a big improvement in the situation for aspiring comic book artists.
But few have paid attention to another aspect of this revolution- namely the revolutionary potential of the new format. Printed comics had to employ a variety of artistic techniques to create the illusion of motion and action. The change to a tablet computer format allows comic creators to create real action and motion within each frame of the strip.
They can now create AND easily monetize both full motion cartoons and frame based cartoon strips with user activated animation in a variety of formats ranging from classical 2D, 2.5D and 3D or any mixture thereof. I should mention that many of the old hindrances and obstacles to creating such content had previously fallen due to the availability of cheap computers and content creation software.
The tablet computer is going to become a far more versatile medium for comic books than its printed paper version could ever be. While the first major success on this new platform will resemble their printed paper version, the capabilities of these devices to render and present content in ways that are physically impossible on paper will result in the creation of comic books that are unlike anything today. It is also very likely that such path-breaking techniques will be discovered, utilized and optimized by non-famous independent cartoon creators.
What do you think? Comments?
Since I am currently in a mood to ask these questions, here is another one-
Would getting rid of every single person who ever attended an ivy league university or an expensive private school, along with those institutions, be a net positive or negative for the USA?
Don’t worry about the logistics of the removal or humane treatment of those who don’t give it to others in the first place. Simply restrict yourself to a cost-benefit analysis. Would everybody else enjoy a significantly better living standard, have more opportunities, be able to innovate more and have a more secure existence.
I am simply trying to get you to ask the question: “are these so-called ‘elites’ a useful organ of the system or a cancerous growth?”
Once again, don’t worry about the logistics as it has been feasible, on the required scale, since the late 1920s. Remember that Stalin, Hitler and Mao became leaders because the societies they came out of were deeply dysfunctional and ridden with their own version of supremely corrupt and incompetent elites who were busy impoverishing their own people.