Furthest Right

How Mission Creep Creates Dark Organizations

In your average computer program, there is a main loop or something like a main loop that takes in input, does something to it, and outputs some result while watching for errors and variations. If your program does not have a main loop, we call it a “script” as a way to say that it is for the most part a list of commands executed in sequence.

Humans have a main loop too which manages self-esteem by altering attitudes toward the situation in which the individual finds himself. It constantly seeks to rationalize, or explain to itself in a way that makes everything seem alright, any new data that it encounters.

This means that by nature, humans are disorganization agents, since we seek reasons that things are going well which fit our situation, rather than asking what changes in situation will make things go well. Perhaps a percentage of the population focus on the latter, which makes the rest hate them.

Around here we recount many times the story of irrigation in a small impoverished village: one guy, who studies the way his crops grow, figures out how to irrigate his crops. This incenses the rest, who feel their rationalizations deflate because they have been doing it wrong for a long time, so they call him a witch and burn him alive.

Most of human history follows this path. The lone fellow who thinks he is saving everyone from unnecessary labor or risk finds himself being accused of making everyone else look stupid, which never occurred to him because he thirsts for new ways that make life better.

We can now see the two types of human thinking: means/effects-over-ends/causes, which refers to rationalization the status quo rather than changing our thinking, and ends/causes-over-means/effects, which applies to thinking in terms of reality and how to adapt to it and then changing our thinking to match.

In our boring modern office, the equivalent of means-over-ends thinking can be found in feature creep, a type of dark organization that involves losing sight of the goal and tacking on tangential functions instead in order to avoid thinking and keep job security:

More generally, the tendency for anything complicated to become even more complicated because people keep saying “Gee, it would be even better if it had this feature too.” The result is usually a patchwork because it grew one ad-hoc step at a time, rather than being planned. Planning is a lot of work, but it’s easy to add just one extra little feature to help someone … and then another … and another…. When creeping featurism gets out of hand, it’s like a cancer.

When you do not want to plan — set a goal, and find methods to match, or ends-over-means thinking — you settle for just doing “the process,” which is means-over-ends thinking, and so you take on any list of needs and cram them together into one mediocre app that will have to be rewritten every few years. Your job is secure!

On planet Earth, almost every human knows someone who has given up on life. He once had goals; she once had dreams. Now they go through the motions, blurring the repetition with alcohol and television. They are just there to perform a function in exchange for money and then… well, no one really knows. Retire to a golf course perhaps.

These three things — dying companies, people giving up, and individual mental health problems via cognitive dissonance brought on by rationalizing — parallel a biological process of inflammation. When a wound occurs, the body overreacts, and soon it spends most of its effort on addressing a long-gone cause by attacking its effects.

As human societies become stable, people shift from dealing with nature to trying to succeed at jobs. You no longer thrive by growing crops or hunting game, but by making sure your boss approves of your latest TPS report or presentation on plastics. This shifts us from ends-over-means thinking to means-over-ends rationalization.

In this way, every human thought process inverts itself. In order to keep rationalizing our situation as good, we must leave some facts out of the fact pattern of our existence, and this creates taboos, or things we do not discuss. In groups, people exclude anyone who mentions the taboos.

Since taboos reflect fear, and fears reflect big issues where unknowns or risk can cause loss, this creates a group that refuses to talk about important stuff, and instead focuses almost exclusively on compensatory issues designed to work around the failure to address the actual issues.

Over time, this creates dark organizations in groups and neurosis in individuals, which can broadly be described as a confusion of self with cause and a willingness only to manage effects (means-over-ends) and not address causes, since that requires the individual to change thinking and then behavior, which involves risk.

Dark organizations contribute to the aging of societies through a steady flight from reality (actual issues) through taboos and retreat into solipsistic, individualistic, and narcissistic cognitive dissonance rationalization:

In humans, the risk of dying doubles approximately every six to seven years after infancy. As that exponential process compounds with great age, few people survive more than 100 years. The authors show that it works differently for states. Their risk of termination rises steeply over the first two centuries but then levels off, allowing a few to persist much longer than usual.

They found a similar pattern all over the world from European pre-modern societies to early civilizations in the Americas to Chinese dynasties.

“Ancient Chinese states or dynasties had an upper limit of longevity around 300 years across the past two millennia. This middle-school textbook knowledge in China has a myriad of explanations, but no consensus has been reached,” says co-author Chi Xu of Nanjing University in China.

It takes about two to three centuries for the rot to fully kick in. Each generation successively becomes more removed from the why it does anything, and more invested in managing effects-as-causes through means-over-ends thinking. This means not solving problems, but succeeding at jobs and careers.

Since succeeding at jobs means doing what others can visually identify as successful, being busy doing unimportant things that because they are unimportant are unlikely to fail, which others can see is “working hard,” replaces tackling real issues, and jobs steadily drift away from the productive to the unproductive.

At the same time, society follows a Hegelian stepladder. The first unrealistic thought, a thesis, begets an antithesis that reacts to the direction of the thesis, therefore both it and subsequently the synthesis (usually: compromise by committee) are both also unrealistic.

This does a couple things. First, it induces the population in a state of slow panic resembling PTSD which is neurosis brought on by not knowing what will be rewarded, since that is in the eyes of bosses and others in the crowd, including shareholders.

Second, it promotes the unproductive and unintelligent because they are content to plug away at the processes theyh have been told to do. This pleases their bosses and keeps their coworkers happy since no one is threatened by a drone who is entirely predictable.

From that comes the final stage of society, which is an arrogance toward nature and the divine, where it assumes that since it can regulate effects, it can control causes with effects, and as a result, it always chooses the insane and idiotic over a sensible approach, mimicking the Dunning-Kruger Effect through irrational optimism:

“Forecasting the future with accuracy is difficult and for that reason we night expect those with low cognitive ability to make more errors in judgments, both pessimistic and optimistic. But the results are clear: low cognitive ability leads to more self-flattering biases — people essentially deluding themselves to a degree.” said Dr Chris Dawson of the University’s School of Management.

“This points to the idea that whilst humans may be primed by evolution to expect the best, those high on cognitive ability are more able to override this automatic response when it comes to important decisions. Plans based on overly optimistic beliefs make for poor decisions and are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would realistic beliefs,” Dr Dawson added.

At this point, Crowdism has fully kicked in. The group wants to punish anyone who crosses the taboo line by mentioning reality, and they want to restrain anyone who might know better than the group, so they systematically exclude the realistic and intelligent and favor the insane and idiotic.

To this date, no solution has been found for this progressive degeneration of human minds and human groups, but the best suggestion involves going back to our rationalization loop and reprogramming it instead to focus on goals and causes, which requires that we give up some fears and embrace some mysteries.

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