Saturday, April 08, 2017

Oligarchiology and the Rise of Software to Predominance in the 21st Century

In my posting Hierarchiology and the Phenomenon of Self-Organizing Organizational Collapse I noted that it was very strange that the study of human hierarchies was not initiated until 1969, when the late Professor Laurence Peter finally published his very famous book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong . This was because, ever since the beginnings of the Pleistocene 11,500 years ago, which marked the last retreat of the world-wide glaciers of the Earth that had impeded the rise of civilization amongst the new species Homo sapiens on this planet, all the civilizations and all of the human organizations that they have wrought throughout history have primarily always been based upon a hierarchical architecture. It is quite amazing that it took so long for mankind to finally recognize this very self-evident fact of human nature. Certainly, nearly all historians of the countless civilizations that have arisen throughout history can all agree that all civilizations and all of the human organizations that they have fostered have primarily been based upon hierarchies of political and economic power.

However, in that posting I also explained that although Professor Peter's profound insight into the nature of human nature was indeed revolutionary, his original definition of the Peter Principle had been largely based upon a rather unique point in time in American history during the 1950s and early 1960s when the United States of America had emerged victorious from World War II with no apparent economic competitors whatsoever, since all of its competitors had essentially self-destructed during the war. However, to generalize Professor Peter's keen insight, I then proposed that there was indeed an alternative, and timeless, version of the Peter Principle that endured for all times and for all hierarchies:

The Time Invariant Peter Principle: In a hierarchy, successful subordinates tell their superiors what their superiors want to hear, while unsuccessful subordinates try to tell their superiors what their superiors need to hear. Only successful subordinates are promoted within a hierarchy, and eventually, all levels of a hierarchy will tend to become solely occupied by successful subordinates who only tell their superiors what their superiors want to hear.

Continuing on along these lines, in this posting I would like to also propose that, in addition to always being organized into hierarchies of political and economic power, all civilizations throughout history have also always been organized into hierarchies of political and economic power forming a very powerful oligarchy of individuals who control the entire civilization. In The Danger of Tyranny in the Age of Software I alluded to George Orwell's 1949 dystopian view of the future in his infamous book Nineteen Eighty-Four in which Orwell outlined a very grim possible future in his book-within-a-book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism maintained that ever since civilization had first been invented, all societies always organized themselves in a hierarchical manner into an oligarchy where 2% of the High ran the entire society. Under the High was a 13% Middle that served the necessary administrative functions to maintain production for the society and to keep the 85% of the Low in their place within the society. Indeed, all civilizations throughout human history have always been organized upon oligarchies of varying degrees of power. This fact is of importance in order to fully understand what will likely happen during the 21st century as software comes to predominance as the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet.

Again, to really make sense of the modern world, you must first realize that we are all living in a very rare time in which a new form of self-replicating information, known to us as software, is coming to predominance. So in the current world of human politics and economics, it's all about software coming to predominance and not much else. For more on that see: A Brief History of Self-Replicating Information, The Economics of the Coming Software Singularity , The Enduring Effects of the Obvious Hiding in Plain Sight and Machine Learning and the Ascendance of the Fifth Wave. If you do not come to that realization, nothing else makes much sense in the current world, and that is the reason why most of the current political and economic pundits cannot explain what the heck is really going on. Being born in 1951, I can vividly remember a time when there essentially was no software on the Earth at all, so unlike many of today's political and economic pundits, I have the advantage of remembering a time when software really did not play any role whatsoever in the world.

The Need for the New Discipline of Oligarchiology
I just Googled the Internet for the string "Oligarchiology", and to my surprise, I came up with a total of three hits, but only one hit actually had the string "Oligarchiology" in it. Similarly, when I Googled the random nonsensical string "fizzlemonger", I similarly came up with a total of three hits, but all three hits actually had the string "fizzlemonger" in them! So I am now quite confident that the science of Oligarchiology has never been fully explored by academia, even though it is quite self-evident that all human civilizations throughout time have always been ruled by oligarchies of varying political and economic power. What an extraordinary opportunity! So like Professor Peters, I would now like to initiate the new science of Oligarchiology as the study of oligarchies throughout human history. As I always say, better late than never, but regrettably, being retired and at an age of 65 years, I personally now must rely on much younger researchers to carry on with this new discipline in the future. For my purposes, I just need the fact from Oligarchiology that the world is currently run by a number of oligarchies as it always has been. This oligarchical fact of life has been true under numerous social and economic systems - autocracies, aristocracies, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism. It just seems that there have always been about 2% of the population that liked to run things, no matter how things were set up, and there is nothing wrong with that. We certainly always do need somebody around to run things, because honestly, 98% of us simply do not have the ambition or desire to do so. Of course, the problem throughout history has always been that the top 2% naturally tended to abuse the privilege a bit and overdid things a little, resulting in 98% of the population having a substantially lower economic standard of living than the top 2%, and that has led to several revolutions in the past that did not always end so well. However, historically, so long as the bulk of the population had a relatively decent life, things went well in general for the entire oligarchical society. The key to this economic stability has always been that the top 2% has always needed the remaining 98% of us around to do things for them, and that maintained the hierarchical peace within societies. But that will be changing in the 21st century as software continues to displace more and more workers. To my mind this all begins at about the age of 14, no matter in what culture you may have been raised in. In the United States of America, this all begins when you enter high school at the age of 14, when it becomes quite apparent that about 2% of the class take on a leadership role. This 2% High then recruits a 13% Middle to administer the 85% Low who are mostly lost in space and time during all of high school. As a proud member of a local high school Low 50 years ago, I have no problem with this self-evident fact of human nature.

Software and the Spread of False Political Memes in the 21st Century
In many of my recent postings, I have alluded to my concern that such hierarchical tranquility in the oligarchical societies of the world may not be the case in the 21st century as software rises to predominance. Again, software is just the fifth wave of self-replicating information to come to predominance on this planet over the past 4.567 billion years. For a more on that please see A Brief History of Self-Replicating Information. My concern is that the current oligarchies of the world could easily turn very ugly, as they did so for most of human history. The rise of Alt-Right movements, formerly known as fascist movements, within the western democracies, and the return of Tzarist Russia do not bold well for the continuing spread of democracy. As software eliminates more and more jobs in the 21st century, there will be a rising level of discontent amongst the displaced against the current world order of oligarchies and their current social orders. This will allow strongmen, with simple solutions that can easily fit on a bumper sticker, to come to power, as has recently happened in the United States of America. These strongmen will argue that the messy checks and balances of 18th century democracy are the enemy of the people, and will not allow them to do what is necessary to make their country great again.

The 18th century Enlightenment brought us both capitalism and the western democracies with the necessary checks and balances that could moderate the excesses of capitalism to create optimal oligarchical societies. Granted, these societies were still oligarchical in nature, because that is just the natural order of things, but they were relatively benign oligarchies that tolerated both political and economic dissent and also allowed for some upward mobility amongst those in the lower classes. The tolerance of dissent is essential for both political and economic progress. Now the 18th century Enlightenment was an outgrowth of the 17th century Scientific Revolution, which revealed to us that there was indeed an absolute reality that could be understood by gathering facts, building models or theories that could explain those observed facts, and thoroughly testing those models and theories to see if they truly could explain the observed facts and new facts that came along. Consequently, both the 17th century Scientific Revolution and the 18th century Enlightenment were based upon the use of evidence-based reasoning to figure things out, and then to take actions to change things if necessary. Therefore, we should all rebel against the new Alt-Right and Tzarist strongmen who request that we simply suspend evidence-based reasoning for the good of the country and to simply "believe" and follow them instead. See The Danger of Believing in Things and The Danger of Tyranny in the Age of Software for more on that.

Of course the suspension of belief in a physical reality by the masses as they blindly follow a strongman leader into oblivion is nothing new, but now we have software in the picture as a complicating factor that makes this much easier. This is because software allows for the easy spread of false-memes. The invention of writing many thousands of years ago greatly aided the spread of political memes. But there has always been a substantial printing and distribution cost associated with spreading false political memes. Software has now reduced those costs to nearly zero, and that is the problem. There is no editorial board on the Internet that demands that news stories be corroborated by multiple sources and fact-checked by others before publication in order to maintain the credibility of the publishing house and ensure that it remains economically viable. Also, printed false political memes cannot self-replicate like software-enabled false political memes can. In the Software Universe of the Internet, anybody can now publish a blatantly false political meme that can then be instantly and easily replicated on social media software. This is why the memes and software, both forms of self-replicating information, have forged such a tight parasitic/symbiotic relationship. False political memes simply need to find the minds of willing human DNA survival machines to self-replicate and grow unchecked in an exponential manner. In fact, we have now found that false political memes can do this much better than true political memes because false political memes usually come with an irresistible scandalous element that attracts the minds of human DNA survival machines, like flowering plants attract bees, in order to replicate. For more on that see Cyber Civil Defense . The 2016 presidential election in the United States is a vivid example of all of this in action. Just try to imagine the outcome of that election if there were no such thing as software!

The Rise of Software During the 21st Century
At the current rate, software will most likely come to predominance as the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet sometime during the 21st century. As I have outlined in several recent postings, this will be a dramatic development for the entire planet, not to mention a very traumatic experience for mankind in general, since we really do not know how it will all unfold. In the meantime, while we still have some degree of control, as human beings we should all stand up to the fascist tendencies of mankind by embracing the ideals of the Enlightenment that brought us the western democracies and the freedoms to pursue the best in mankind.

Comments are welcome at

To see all posts on softwarephysics in reverse order go to:

Steve Johnston

No comments: