Sunday, October 13, 2013
  Revolt of the non-living

Successful systems of ALL kinds require two qualities:

(1) Decoupling.

(2) Negative feedback.

Life invented these qualities. Or the Creator of Life invented them, if you prefer to think in those terms. In either case, they don't exist in the pre-life parts of the universe.

Life works because it's decoupled and loopy. Every module at every level, from mitochondria to cells to organs to individuals to hives, has its own loops, and each module has a strictly limited influence on other modules.

Half-formed thought: Human history has led to a wide variety of overlaid systems, each of which succeeded when it reached maximum Life, maximum decoupling and loopiness. Recently we've been running in reverse, turning many of those systems back toward a non-life condition with tight coupling and no feedback. In most cases we still have 'living' examples of each system, and the 'living' systems are usually growing and succeeding. But in some areas the 'living' examples are in danger from the power connections of the 'non-living' examples.

Yes, that's vague and sort of private-language-ish. See if some examples will clarify.

= = = = =

Religion. Decentralized churches are growing, centralized are shrinking. Who's growing? Islam and Baptist and Pentecostal. What do those belief systems LACK? They lack a Pope or an Archbishop of Canterbury or a Grand Pooh-bah. They are highly fragmented, with local and ethnic branches growing independently on the same belief base. A local church or ethnic branch may go bad (too loose or too tight), but it doesn't infect the other branches.

When you have a Pope or an A of C, you have O'Sullivan's Law writ large. A bad Pope like Miss Francine has total control, and all of her followers must remain loyal, must find a way to defend her apostasy. Everyone is required to catch the Popette's moral disease.

[Sidenote: The fact that decentralized and growing religions are also strict religions is a positive indication that most humans are morally healthy and resilient. Most of us understand why we need religion, and choose a religion that gives us what we need.]

= = = = =

Banking. TBTF says it all. Centralize, securitize, commoditize. Independent banks, tied together by clearing-houses and limited in their scope by strict laws, work well. One bank may become unprofitable, and may even fail, but its failure can be absorbed by the rest of the system. When the restrictions disappear and one Goldman controls everything, governments have to let Goldman do whatever it wants.

= = = = =

Computing. The personal computer has always been a threat to the old centralizers. Genuinely personal computer power reached a peak around 2000. Each desktop unit had its own CPU and its own storage for both programs and data. The punch-card boys never enjoyed losing their power, and now the 'Cloud' has finally brought them back into total control. Programs and data are now central, and each desktop or handheld unit is just a TTY. Punch-card boys are happy, and their friends in NSA and GCHQ are delirious.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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