George Orwell's Boot
This paper lays out the ideas as to why I believe that the statement from George Orwell in his book 1984 is mostly accurate.
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
Another way or saying this is, once cultures expand beyond small local tribes into large anonymous cultures such as exist today, then
Evolution must inevitably turn those cultures into some form of nation state run by and for stupid authoritarians. In part, this is because the vast majority of people in any ecology, that is comprised mainly of humans, will be made up of the what is, by and for, the vast majority of the population. Depending on how you define vast majority (one or two standard deviations or something in between) of the normal distribution, that will be between 70% and 95% of the population. But clearly with at least 70% of any given population being stupid authoritarian it is fairly clear that, as our founding fathers feared, a government based on the votes of the governed will inevitably become a tyranny.
Our founding fathers tried, with a written contract known as the constitution, to prevent this descent into tyranny. As I will show below, it is not to surprising the the best efforts of these very smart people failed. Stupid and authoritarian in humans are simply variants of each other. I shall attempt to show that the logic and rules of evolution make it most likely that anonymous cultures will mist likely become tyrannies.
Evolution distributes properties all over the spectrum of the possible so that there are some, but not many, people who are not stupid and not authoritarian. Of course most people do not think of themselves as either stupid or authoritarian. It is hard to say that you are not short. It is easy, even with an IQ of 90 to claim that you are not stupid. I am sure that the subjects of Stanley Milgram's experiment or of a similar experiment at Stanford did not think of themselves as obedient authoritarians willing to inflict pain and suffering at the word of their masters.
I will show in detail how all this works below.
It may be possible to avoid the descent
into tyranny, but I am fairly certain that unless people are
aware of the nature of the problem, then George Orwell's
prediction is inevitable, unless we take some specific steps to
prevent it. This is true because as Sun Tzu said “If
you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result
of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for
every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know
neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
I do not know what the solution is, but I have some ideas.
I will try to show how I came to this conclusion by starting from first principles, clear and unambiguous definitions of terms, and some self evident axioms. From these, I will require just a few obvious steps to demonstrate the conclusion.
I would really appreciate some constructive feedback here. firstname.lastname@example.org
First we need to be clear and unambiguous about the meanings of words. If we are not then we are little more than animals grunting at each other with the one grunting the longest and loudest winning. Interestingly enough, most leaders became leaders because they, in fact, did just this.
So as not to be to theoretical, I will give some examples of how I am using the word, an elaborate as much as possible to reduce ambiguity.
Authoritarian: A hierarchical social structure. Peoples actions are governed by those above them in the hierarchy. People do not take responsibility for their actions since their actions are determined by their superiors. People do what they are told rather than what they think is best. They believe what they are told rather than in their own powers of observation. Power belongs to those who take it by whatever means they can.
Almost all cultures are authoritarian to one degree or another. Chances are that you are very much an authoritarian person. To put it another way, you tend to be obedient to authority. If you think that you are not, or if you are, like me, afraid that you may be, then I suggest that you read "Obedience to Authority" by Stanley Milgram or go here
"Conversely, some argue that the psychopath tends to be extremely organized, secretive and manipulative. The outer personality is often charismatic and charming, hiding the real person beneath. Though psychopaths do not feel for others, they can mimic behaviours that make them appear normal. Upon meeting, one would have more of a tendency to trust a psychopath than a sociopath.
Both the psychopath and sociopath fail to feel remorse or guilt. They appear to lack a conscience and are completely self-serving. They routinely disregard rules, social mores and laws, unmindful of putting themselves or others at risk."
Here is a list of characteristics: So how many politicians (elected or not) do you know who do NOT posses most of these traits?
Key Symptoms of Psychopathy from
Rank your favourite talking head on a scale of 0 to 2.
I would give almost everyone in Washington, and senior management on wall street, a score of 1 or 2 on the first 9 and on items 11 and 16
This scale was designed for convicted criminals. We know that the upper classes have better lawyers, so lets remove the last three "symptoms" that reference explicit criminal behavior. I think it safe to assume that "early behavior problems", or number 12, is also hidden behind money. That leaves 16 symptoms. Whereas non criminals score around 5, your average politician is going to score around 20.
I, for example, see little if any difference between John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh
Read more: "How Can Psychopaths Be Identified? Use of the PCL to Assess Antisocial Personality Suite101.com" - http://personalitydisorders.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_can_psychopaths_be_identified#ixzz0FmzxKZC7&A
Stupid: Unwilling or unable to learn by critically examining the existing pool of information. Obviously their are degrees, from Einstein (my favorite example. See we are almost ALL stupid to one degree or another) down through your cult followers, to "special needs people", to bedridden idiots.
Now that the definitions are done, here are some basic
observations / axioms
1. Almost all human attributes are distributed throughout the population as a normal distribution with a most people residing within one standard deviation, and 95% residing within two standard deviations from the mean/middle .
2. People are different, and the vast majority of people do not realize how different people are. Different is not good or bad in and of itself, however, peoples natural wiring leads them to view difference as a threat, ie as bad. Here is one study, but there are many.
3. It is natural for people to see themselves as the norm or standard. That is to say, while a person may think of himself as “special” in some way, he is not likely to see himself as a freak of nature. If you can do something, you just assume that everyone else could also “do it” if they just made a little effort. This perception of self as normal and an inability to see differences happens even among people who are trained to see differences and who should know better. For example people with PTSD or chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia were dismissed as hypochondriacs, or lazy or in some other way given a bad label and told that “it was all in their head, and that they should just get over it”
4. Humans, like almost all mobile organic systems, are pattern recognitions systems: That is how they work. Before they become obedient to authority they learn by recognizing patterns, and this learning takes place by trial and error. Mobile organic systems are more likely to be successful or survive in a competitive world by seeing patterns that are not there than by not seeing patterns that are there. Think fleeing from a perceived threat that is not there as opposed not fleeing from a real threat that is there.
Because the consequences of failing to perceive a threat are so much greater than failing to perceive an opportunity, humans are more likely to see non-existent threats than they are to see non-existent opportunities or to fail to see real threats.
5. Almost all Humans do stupid things: This of course would include you. The question is not "Do you do stupid things?", but how often do you do stupid things, and just how great would you or others rank the level of stupidity?. If you think that you do not do stupid things, then consider Albert Einstein: Look at the definition that I gave, and consider the following three items about Dr. Einstein:
I. He fathered an illegitimate child. Not exactly a smart move considering the attitudes of the early 20th century. II. He never believed in the implications of quantum mechanics despite all the evidence to the contrary, and once claimed that "God does not play dice with the universe" (As is so often the case with people quoting from authority to back up their positions --- see authoritarian above --- this quote is not correct. The correct quote, in a letter to Max Born December 4, 1926 is "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.") I believe that Dr. Born replied that not only does he throw the dice, but that he often throws them where they can not be found.
As another footnote, Google has 30 times as many hits for the wrong quote than for the correct one . Google often re-enforces stupid rather than fixing it.
III. We have one of his most famous misquoted statements
"Striving for peace and preparing for war are incompatible with each other, and in our time more so than ever."
~Einstein, speaking in U.N. radio interview, June 16, 1950, recorded in Einstein's home in Princeton, NJ.
This from a man who spent 18 years of his young adult life in a country that had the interesting distinction of being one of the most heavily armed countries in the world on a per capita basis, yet managed to remained neutral and at peace in the middle of armed conflicts for over 125 years when that statement was made.
These three examples show that even Einstein did not always learn from his experience.
I am not trying to mock you or others, but to let you know that, by nature, people often do stupid things. They do stupid things, and rather than think for themselves and act on those thoughts, they obey authority. You can see the reasons for this if you consider how evolution works.
This is about the 4th time that I have mentioned authority, and now I wish to present evidence that
6. Evolution favors authoritarian Tribes.
We, and almost all social animals, are wired to defer to or be obedient to authority. By ignoring our own observations and acting on the word of others rather than on our own beliefs or our own observations, when we act according to the authoritarian paradigm we are being stupid. When the amount of information flowing into a culture was slow compared to the life time of its members, this made a great deal of sense. It was in fact smart. The best source of information, and the fastest way to learn how to do something, was to learn from a member of the tribe who was already successful at doing something. The more difficult and complex a thing was, the better to learn from an “expert”. And as this link shows this wiring, this ability to learn from others, is very old
Consider two tribes, one tending to authoritarianism, and obedience, and another that tends more toward autonomy and self direction.
To begin with, no matter what the nature of the tribe, all members will tend to give weight to the words of those who have been around a long time and who have some authority. There will not exist a tribe where everyone figures everything out for themselves. In general, in the terms of the entire expanse of the time frame of human history, it has always been reasonable to assume that someone who got to be old did so because their judgment was more sound and accurate than someone who died young. Children who paid heed to their parents teachings were more likely to live to make more children than those who felt compelled to go off on their own and do things that they were advised against doing.
Until just a few generations ago, the trait of not listening to ones parents was not likely to get passed on to any descendants. So even in the most libertarian tribe there will still be strong tendencies to listen to ones parents / elders.
Lets take two tribes that somehow happened to just be where they are wherever that is. One of them tends to be Authoritarian, and one tends to favor those who think more for themselves and to "question authority". If they come into conflict for whatever reason, then which one is more likely to survive?
I can not think of a single instance where, all other things like size and technology levels being about the same, where the authoritarian tribe will not end up destroying the non-authoritarian tribe. If you would like to see a detailed examination of this concept then read Sex and War by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden
I am sure that someone with the intellectual acuity of a radish will claim that the United Sates and Nazi Germany are a counter example to the above assertion. To which I respond with two salient points. The first is that only a radish would think that either nation was a tribe. The second point is that large nations have forms of specialization among its members. One of these forms is the armed forces which are --- no surprise here --- authoritarian in nature.
Listening to authority and using it as the only or major determinant of behaviour, as we are wired to do, is contrary to the idea of learning and making decisions by examining the existing pool of information. In other words, while that wiring made us smart when “things to know” were relatively simple, obvious, and did not change very much over time, now that important things to know are often complex, not obvious, and change relatively quickly, we are wired to be stupid. Please observe that I am not claiming that a person should pay no attention to an authority figure. But the pronouncements of elders, or authority figures, should always be considered as just another datum of evidence. When this datum conflicts with your own real world experience, then you should not simply discount either one out of hand, but should carefully examine both, try and reconcile the conflict, and then make your best guess as to which is more likely to be true. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of people tend to automatically defer to authority and ignore real world evidence.
Here is a good rule of thumb. When you say "Important person X said", or offer up the speeches of others as evidence rather than say "the evidence indicates that", or quote studies of evidence by others, then you are being as nature intended. You are believing things based on authority and you are being stupid.
There is an entire major segment of our culture dedicated to living by authority, and that is almost all forms of organized religion. The bible is, by definition, nothing more than written words from authority figures. People claim that the bible is the true word of God, but this is unlikely since there are no first editions. All bibles in existence are translations of translations, and many of these from cultures long dead. Knowing exactly the original meaning of a word, phrase or sentence is not possible. But people claim that they know because someone else told them what the words meant. Every believer claims that their version of the translation of the translation is the one true word of God. Their one book is 100% accurate and all the rest are wrong.
Some real life examples from my life:
I really do not like doctors as practitioners except in instances of trauma, or possibly to confirm something, or maybe point me in a direction. I have been having trouble on and off with a knee, and recently it was on. I went to the doctor who gave me the usual diagnosis but was more holistic than most, and at least did not prescribe pain medication. And then about a week after I visited him I remembered that I had run out of Glucosamine Chondroitin.
I got some, and after about two months my knee was pretty much back to normal
My mechanic said that our transmission was going out based on some vibrations. Two Thousand dollars to replace it. But from my limited knowledge of transmissions and my own experience, this did not feel or seem entirely correct. A second opinion at a different place revealed a misaligned CV axle. Cost $250.00
By paying attention to actual data and learning from it and not deferring to authority, I was able to save myself time, money and pain.
This is not of course to say that one should never listen to experts or authority. What I am saying is that each of us must always re-examine authority. While giving weight to the experience of those older, and/or wiser, and/or better trained, we must still pay attention to our own experience. Not learning from experience, and deferring to authority is stupid. But that is how we are wired.
7. Now let us look at the concept of competition. In any form of interaction, all other things being equal, the more competitive person will come out ahead. It is unfortunate that competition can include winning at all costs. Successful psychopaths are very competitive.
In addition to the above points there is the fact that any given group of people has members with a very wide range of brain functions. Musicians, sociopaths, hunters, craftsmen, storytellers. People who are generous, and people who are stingy. As any of you who have had children, and were involved with them from an early age know, your children have very definite personality traits from very early on. You can influence these traits, but you can not change them. If you have an oak tree, it you can make it a tall oak tree or a small oak tree, but there is no way that you can make it an elm tree.
My final basic axiom Number 8: Bad things tend to drive out good things. As in bad money drives out good money, bad people drive out good people. Consider a race for public office. You have a good competent person with a history of doing good things and who is honest and thoughtful. On the other side you have someone who has not actually been found guilty of a crime and who will use any method short of murder to win office. That person will lie, and cheat. He will accuse a person who lost limbs in combat of not being patriotic. He will start rumors that his opponent had affairs and fathered children with women who were not his wife. Why would any rational good person expose themselves to such things?
Remember that Nature does not care. She just keeps rolling the genetic dice. More competitive, less competitive, smarter dumber, more mirror neurons (empathy) fewer mirror neurons. Sometimes you get Mother Theresa, sometimes you get Bernie Madoff, and sometimes you get Ted Bundy. These are the outliers who reside on the extreme ends of bell shaped curves.
More towards the center of the curve, you have the majority of average people who just want to be left alone, be productive, have a sense of belonging, be loved etc. Drop into this mix of normal people a Snake in a Suit (Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak and Robert Hare) otherwise known as a psychopath described above and all these normal people become no more than food for the psychopath. Otherwise known as our political leaders and wannabe leaders. Perhaps Hermann Goering said it best
In an insulated group the Peter principle applies. People get promoted to their level of incompetence, and then they just stay there. No one promotes them further since they are not competent where they are, but unless times get very rough, they are not demoted or fired. Go to the next level. There is a good chance that that incompetent middle manager was promoted to his position by a person who is also incompetent. The larger and more insulated an organization is from the real world, the less actual competence competes with the Peter Principle. By competence I mean making the organization working better, producing a better less expensive product and keeping its customers happy.
In terms of insulation from the real world the four most insulated are, going from most to least, Government, Organized conservative religious institutions, educational institutions, and very large corporations. I think that it is not a coincidence that in the past 20 years, three of these four have been the source of the greatest social and financial calamities inflicted upon this society. In particular the more these four entities have been involved with each other, the more likely they were the source of a calamity.
The most heavily insulated culture in our society is government in all its forms. This is because the heads of all government entities are elected officials, and the only skill that they need is the ability to get elected. As supported by empirical evidence, that ability appears to correlate strongly with psychopathic personalities.
So, when I speak of leaders, I speak of leaders of organizations that are insulated from the real world. The greater the insulation the more my analysis applies.
If you lead a small company the market gives leadership very quick feedback that can be ignored only at the risk of the company quickly ceasing to exist. If you are the head of a very large company, for example General Motors, why then you can do what you damn well please, retire with a platinum parachute, and let your successors deal with the cesspool that you left behind.
Here is my thesis. And at this point, I was going to target the social conservative wing of the republican party, but upon further thought, I have concluded that what I have to say applies to almost everybody in a decision making capacity of government, especially to elected officials.
Given the Above Axioms and definitions summarized here:
Almost everybody is stupid, in that they are often unwilling or unable to learn from experience.
According to the work of Stanley Milgram at least 80% of people are authoritarian in that they defer to authority against their better judgment and core values. They will believe authority rather than their own experience. That is to say that they are stupid.
Leaders are not smarter, they just talk longer, louder and faster and are more personable.
Sociopaths want power, and are very good at manipulating people. Government is about one thing, and one thing only. Power. Everything else is secondary.
Bad people tend to drive out good people.
Most people just want to be left alone and prefer not think for themselves.
thus, in the future, our written rules, to wit the constitution of the US, will eventually be completely trashed by sociopaths seeking power, and we will find ourselves under the rule of a despot as bad as any in history. I see nothing that will limit the size of government or of the authoritarian tendencies in our culture.
Let me put it another way. Over the last 100 years, every decade the government has taken more of our money from us. Does anybody see anything that will keep it from growing to the point where it takes everything from us? What exactly is that? If what we have, viz. health care, protection (No guns, no self defense) transportation (public, cars, roads etc.) all comes from government, then what are we but children ruled by not so benevolent parents. Have you seen the retirement plans and health care plans that we pay for?
I now have three questions.
Which, if any, of my axioms are wrong, and how?
If they are not wrong, then why is my conclusion not correct?
Is there any way to change things?
Any other feedback would also be appreciated.
If you think this is not to terribly important, how about considering the possibility that Psychopaths may be the next step in evolution: At least that would be the logical conclusion from this titbit Originally from http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53682/ but available at
here's a possibility: Insofar as consciousness means not just awareness, but awareness of awareness, then maybe its evolutionary explanation derives from what we might call the "Robert Burns phenomenon," namely the pay-off of being able to "see ourselves as others see us." And why might that be adaptive? Perhaps because it enables us to engage in a kind of Machiavellian sociality, adjusting our behavior so as to appear better, nicer, more worthwhile than we really are! In short, what if the evolutionary basis of one of our most cherished traits is, in fact, dishonesty and deception?
Some articles of interest.