Furthest Right

Design versus control

Design science is an interesting field spanning multiple human specializations. By altering the design, or abstract structure, of an object, society or individual, you can make it better without a marked increase in resources.

Imagine a human being gaining ten IQ points; suddenly, many things they used to do seem really pointless, and there are new challenges to shoot for. Now imagine a society that instead of being at war with itself, is able to find a balance and move onward to objectives outside of internal bickering.

If you do not improve design, your only other option is to keep forcing square pegs into round holes, which requires the application of blind force — whether that’s money, muscle or fear of law enforcement. Humanity is now at a crossroads between improving itself, and continuing to force its failed designs to advance limpingly.

The following quotation is interesting because like many of the things quoted here, it is an instant of clarity in a philosophy with which I share much in common, without being a devotee. People often ask “Are you a ______?” and hope I’ll answer for whatever tribe they’ve picked as their own, but the answer is that I’m not a libertarian, transhumanist, socialist, eugenicist, nationalist, etc. but have cherry-picked from each according to what I’ve learned from history and philosophy. ‘

While I respect the integrity of beliefs, modern people use them as adornments as if trying to show me that they’ve found the one truth path to enlightenment, and I’m only interested in results. Was Plato a socialist? Yes and no. Was Marcus Aurelius a libertarian? Yes and no. Nietzsche a eugenicist? Yes and no. Trying to shop for beliefs by category is a dead-end trick.

That being said, where truth is found in any of these beliefs, one finds a stepping stone to modulate between beliefs — a place where they agree, and from this agreement, each can interpret the other as a version if itself with slightly altered priorities. That’s where philosophy gets interesting.

To do this, we must study the possibilities of creating a more favourable social environment, as we have already done in large measure with our physical environment. We shall start from new premises. For instance, that beauty (some­thing to enjoy and something to be proud of) is indispensable, and therefore that ugly or depressing towns are immoral; that quality of people, not mere quantity, is what we must aim at, and therefore that a concerted policy is required to prevent the present flood of population-increase from wrecking all our hopes for a better world; that true understanding and enjoyment are ends in themselves, as well as tools for or relaxations from a job, and that therefore we must explore and make fully available the techniques of education and self-education; that the most ultimate satisfaction comes from a depth and wholeness of the inner life, and therefore that we must explore and make fully available the techniques of spiritual development; above all, that there are two complementary parts of our cosmic duty —one to ourselves, to be fulfilled in the realization and enjoyment of our capacities, the other to others, to be fulfilled in service to the community and in promoting the welfare of the generations to come and the advancement of our species as a whole.

The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself —not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity.

The point here is valid: if we sit around fighting over who gets what, we will not improve, and as time rushes on, we’ll decay.

We need a positive, abstract, design-based goal, like improving simultaneously the human individual and social design. This does not happen through Progressive ideals, which are essentially wealth redistribution; it happens by setting higher qualitative goals and shooting for those. More genius! More strength! More beauty! And more wisdom.

This will involve several components:

  • A more realistic social design.
  • Mental and moral discipline in the individual.
  • Biological improvement in the abilities, mainly g or general intelligence, of the individual.

Most people freak out at this point because they’re underconfident: but what if I don’t make the cut?

My answer is that there doesn’t need to be a cut. All we need to do is keep growing forward and rewarding the best examples of humanity, instead of sending them to dreary offices and then home to equally sterile and pointless gated communities to keep the hoi polloi out.

Here’s an example of an area for design improvement:

New research suggests that the layer of insulation coating neural wiring in the brain plays a critical role in determining intelligence. In addition, the quality of this insulation appears to be largely genetically determined, providing further support for the idea that IQ is partly inherited.

Thompson and his colleagues took DTI scans of 92 pairs of fraternal and identical twins. They found a strong correlation between the integrity of the white matter and performance on a standard IQ test. “Going forward, we are certainly going to think of white matter structure as an important contributor of intelligence,” says Van Wedeen, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was also not involved in the research. “It also changes how you think about what IQ is measuring,” says Wedeen. The research was published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Results showed that the quality of the white matter is highly genetically determined, although the influence of genetics varies by brain area. According to the findings, about 85 percent of the variation in white matter in the parietal lobe, which is involved in mathematics, logic, and visual-spatial skills, can be attributed to genetics. But only about 45 percent of the variation in the temporal lobe, which plays a central role in learning and memory, appears to be inherited.

Technology Review

As you can see from the article, our DNA determines our intelligence for the greatest part, and it’s up to us to nurture the rest and develop it to its best level. However, without the DNA coding for the raw intelligence, there’s no point exerting that effort.

If we made ourselves smarter as a species, our problems would decrease and we would feel better about ourselves as a species. The dumb stuff that people do now would be seen as obviously corrupt and with potential to end badly, and people would bypass it for more intelligent courses. Even more importantly, they’d stop buying really stupid products and insisting on really stupid services, which would gear our economy forward instead of toward self-parasitism.

The alternative is more control — more strong leaders, more media manipulation, and more fake experts:

A brain-scanning study of people making financial choices suggests that when given expert advice, the decision-making parts of our brains often shut down.

The problem with this, of course, is that the advice may not be good.

“When the expert’s advice made the least sense, that’s where we could see the behavioral effect,” said study co-author Greg Berns, an Emory University neuroscientist. “It’s as if people weren’t using their own internal value mechanisms.”


When the advice is at its worst, we don’t understand it, but accept it because the person is an expert and now we have someone else to blame.

Wow. That’s control in a nutshell. When we are in a relationship, we’ll often let the other person take charge, and then blame them when it doesn’t work out. We gladly delegate to our leaders but when things don’t turn out, we ask for their heads. And so on.

Most people would rather be controlled than think about altering their designs. Things as they now exist are tangible and comfortingly familiar; anything that requires we stretch ourselves, or reward someone for rising above, can be negative unless that person did it through “hard work” or other illusions that seem equally accessible to us. Control can be justified as necessary, with the unspoken caveat that it’s going to apply to the other guy — we, the wiser monkey, will game the system.

Here’s an American pragmatist, much in the line of Plato and Aristotle, writing about the literal reality of making a civilization that does not head toward failure:

Let the will of the state act, then, instead of that of the individual. Let an institution be created which shall have for its object to keep correct doctrines before the attention of the people, to reiterate them perpetually, and to teach them to the young; having at the same time power to prevent contrary doctrines from being taught, advocated, or expressed. Let all possible causes of a change of mind be removed from men’s apprehensions. Let them be kept ignorant, lest they should learn of some reason to think otherwise than they do. Let their passions be enlisted, so that they may regard private and unusual opinions with hatred and horror. Then, let all men who reject the established belief be terrified into silence. Let the people turn out and tar-and-feather such men, or let inquisitions be made into the manner of thinking of suspected persons, and when they are found guilty of forbidden beliefs, let them be subjected to some signal punishment. When complete agreement could not otherwise be reached, a general massacre of all who have not thought in a certain way has proved a very effective means of settling opinion in a country. If the power to do this be wanting, let a list of opinions be drawn up, to which no man of the least independence of thought can assent, and let the faithful be required to accept all these propositions, in order to segregate them as radically as possible from the influence of the rest of the world.

This method has, from the earliest times, been one of the chief means of upholding correct theological and political doctrines, and of preserving their universal or catholic character. In Rome, especially, it has been practised from the days of Numa Pompilius to those of Pius Nonus. This is the most perfect example in history; but wherever there is a priesthood — and no religion has been without one — this method has been more or less made use of. Wherever there is an aristocracy, or a guild, or any association of a class of men whose interests depend, or are supposed to depend, on certain propositions, there will be inevitably found some traces of this natural product of social feeling. Cruelties always accompany this system; and when it is consistently carried out, they become atrocities of the most horrible kind in the eyes of any rational man. Nor should this occasion surprise, for the officer of a society does not feel justified in surrendering the interests of that society for the sake of mercy, as he might his own private interests. It is natural, therefore, that sympathy and fellowship should thus produce a most ruthless power.

In judging this method of fixing belief, which may be called the method of authority, we must, in the first place, allow its immeasurable mental and moral superiority to the method of tenacity. Its success is proportionately greater; and, in fact, it has over and over again worked the most majestic results. The mere structures of stone which it has caused to be put together — in Siam, for example, in Egypt, and in Europe — have many of them a sublimity hardly more than rivaled by the greatest works of Nature. And, except the geological epochs, there are no periods of time so vast as those which are measured by some of these organized faiths. If we scrutinize the matter closely, we shall find that there has not been one of their creeds which has remained always the same; yet the change is so slow as to be imperceptible during one person’s life, so that individual belief remains sensibly fixed. For the mass of mankind, then, there is perhaps no better method than this. If it is their highest impulse to be intellectual slaves, then slaves they ought to remain.

Charles S. Peirce, The Fixation of Belief (1877)

It’s interesting how thinkers of the past saw our present calamities coming, and warned others, but people had the option to simply turn off their brains and so they did in order to avoid difficult truths that impeded socialization.

As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principle powers in dissimulation, which is the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves-since they have been denied the chance to wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of beasts of prey, This art of dissimulation reaches its peak in man. Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself-in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity-is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them. They are deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images; their eyes merely glide over the surface of things and see “forms.” Their senses nowhere lead to truth; on the contrary, they are content to receive stimuli and, as it were, to engage in a groping game on the backs of things.

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.

There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic. They both desire to rule over life: the former, by knowing how to meet his principle needs by means of foresight, prudence, and regularity; the latter, by disregarding these needs and, as an “overjoyed hero,” counting as real only that life which has been disguised as illusion and beauty. Whenever, as was perhaps the case in ancient Greece, the intuitive man handles his weapons more authoritatively and victoriously than his opponent, then, under favorable circumstances, a culture can take shape and art’s mastery over life can be established. All the manifestations of such a life will be accompanied by this dissimulation, this disavowal of indigence, this glitter of metaphorical intuitions, and, in general, this immediacy of deception: neither the house, nor the gait, nor the clothes, nor the clay jugs give evidence of having been invented because of a pressing need.

Friedrich W. Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense (1873)

Notice how Nietzsche stresses beauty, as Huxley did, and much as Peirce suggested a society moving forward toward a goal not bound in servitude to past failure? They are saying: discard linear rationality, and instead, look toward a whole picture as you might find in art or sentience itself. Do not break your thought down into little logical steps; make use of your big brain to consider many factors at once, and aim not to reconcile the present but to grow toward the future!

I suggest that instead of doing that, we’ve embarked on the path of control since the industrial revolution, and that we’re seeing how it’s not working. It requires people to put their brains on hold, accept expert advice, and then blame the experts who oversimplified the process in the first place so everyone could understand it. It also is a negative goal; it doesn’t aim for something new, but for re-shuffling of what we already have.

Instead, we need to create the new and beautiful, in ourselves, our society and our world. That way, we escape control, but gain a sense of increased self-esteem and purpose, and are able to see ourselves in a new plan without the failings of the old because it aims at tomorrow and not yesterday.


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