Sunday, March 12, 2017

Public or Private: The Dynamics of Equity

Alberta is seeing a concerted PR push to legitimize de-funding private schools (i.e. pulling public funding from them).  The leading edge of this wedge issue is framed in terms of high-end private schools with large budget surpluses.

However, it appears charter schools of most any strip are also in the net.  A publicized google map overlay shows each charter/private school's public funding allotment.

These values (usually between 1-10 million) are not presented in context.  I doubt average people realize how expensive schools actually are (~8-10k per student meaning 1-2 million even for a relatively small school).  These expenditures are similar to public schools of the same size (private schools are funded at 70%, I'm not sure about charter school funding...).

A second nefarious link is Edmonton public's comments about exploring the creation of Catholic magnet schools.  Conspiracy theorists (or those who know the animosity between some of the parties) have no trouble seeing this as an exploratory step in the possible revocation of Alberta's constitutional provision for separate Catholic schools.

I have little opinion on the merits or demerits of any of these moves.  I'm comfortably ambivalent with respect to this class of politics.

However, the group dynamics raised by such moves are pretty clear.

  • Public education is about one of the largest adaptive social groups we have.  Its contribution to a nation's assabiyah (social cohesion capital) can't be underestimated.  Everyone is required to get an education.  In Alberta right now every student is equally funded for this basic requirement.  So while the loss of ~$6,679+ may not impact a rich private school student's education much, it is likely to have a major impact on group dynamics.

Education as Outcome vs. Input
The first match this lights next to the proverbial hay-pile is an assurance that societal coherers, like education, are equitable (in the classic equality sense of the word); they make no distinction about the individual.  Religious-like shifts to progressive equity counter simplistic classical equality: Progressivism posits that there should be equity and everyone should get what they need (ensuring of course that there is a nice high minimum).

Education is obviously shifting this way.  This is demonstrated by the

  1. religious-like morals of inclusion (everyone achieving to high minimum standards), 
  2. a shift to outcome rather than input standards, 
  3. a focus on low achievers instead of equal focus on all,
  4. etc...

Obviously as the Western implosion of identity politics has shown, equity, while good in theory can have some major consequences on a society's cohesiveness.  Equity can enable some rather nasty blow back.  One classic theoretical paper here is Sigmund & Nowak's Tides of Tolerance: ever-increasing levels of tolerance are followed by short intolerance phase changes which reset tolerance levels.  Basically, too much tolerance sews the seeds of internal collapse. The pattern is cyclical.  Cliodynamics supports such general trends, albeit with different causal assumptions.

Alberta's desired shift to an equity (outcome) rather than an equality (input) approach to education may certainly reflect progressive mores.  Alberta's potential equity move is designed to shift funds around in order to help areas of need: "Imagine what XX million dollars for those rich kids could do for these poor underperforming kids".  There is no question that the intention is noble.  But the implications, as with many religiously influenced moral decisions, aren't necessarily as well thought out as one imagines.  Ex post facto judgment rationalization is strongly significant in moral landscapes.  Ideological homogeneity can also be a factor.  I have no idea to which this may or may not be present in Alberta's Education system, nor whether it has any effect, but ideological diversity may mirror a typical humanity department, making confrontation with counter-points less likely.

But what are the logical consequences of moving to an outcome rather than input funding model?  Perhaps eventually low performing schools will get additional funding.  Good right?  Probably.  But it is inevitable that some principals may choose to game the system for lower results.  After all, access to common pool goods are at stake. The depth and breadth to which this might occur of course depends upon the tension between central office's push for better achievement vs the localized benefits of additional funds.  But, perhaps such tensions can be moderated and structurally controlled.  I don't see this as much of a factor until the new system becomes mature.


What does matter is social coherence.  An output rather than input model conveys the sense that "identity" matters.  While theoretically reasonable, in practice this is extremely corrosive to societies. The social psychology literature here is very well documented.  Creation of identifiable sub-groups decreases social cohesion. Groups solidify on even the most asininely-pointless demarkers.  They then potentially resonate higher and higher levels of within-group cohesion (depending upon the environmental landscape and feedback effects).  In many cases this is followed by out-group animosity.  Steep in-group-out-group gradients re-enforce triableness and create lines which have increasingly high migration costs.

An equity based approach to educational resourcing can have significant deciphering effects if over-extended or changed too rapidly.

Shadow Systems & Between Group Competition
Because education is such an adaptive group, it is very sensitive to fitness-changing signals.  This includes norm compliance, usurpation, freeloading, changes in freeloader percentages, and costly commitment displays.

Pulling public funding from identifiable groups raises adaptive-group alarm bells.  People can't help but think, "why are we/they targeted"?  "What norms were broken"?  "What are the new norms"?  Responses like, "its nothing personal, you just don't need the money", don't fly.  Everyone knows wealthy elite may not need public funds, but our evolved tendencies are based on practical not factual reality.

In the evolutionary landscape, the costs of false negatives are generally very high. The cost of false positives are generally low. With respect to fitness, it pays for the group to be conservative, sending out occasional liberal probes to explore, maintain connection with, and influence its dynamic environment. Without group oriented conservativeness, actors group-oriented self-sacrifice has a good chance of being anti-fit.  Sticking in group which is not sensitive to false positives is like sinking money into a pit you can never see until it is too late. Because humans exist in the tension between fitness enhancing groups and fitness decreasing groups, we tend to be fairly sensitive and fairly mobile in this regard.  If walking away has little cost, people do it.  If another option is available, people will take it.

What signals might they use for this decision?

  • Do Alberta Ed and the ATA worry about our interests?  In adaptive group speak, is my self-sacrifice probabilistically reciprocated with compensatory benefits?  Arbitrary changes of major social significance away from well-established mores (equality vs. equity) signal a future of weak reciprocity.  Expression of weak reciprocity becomes more likely during times of scarcity. Bandora's social exchange theory makes similar-enough claims, albeit using ex post facto logic poorly suited for forward prediction.
  • What are the "freeloading" percentages.  Simulations are quite clear that groups have a critical "freeloading" mass.  Too much "freeloading" and groups are all-but guaranteed to implode.  Norm enforcement keeps this in check.  But adequate "freeloading" is required to enable large group size.  So, in practice, it is the rate of change of freeloading that is the signal.  Major changes to moving public school funds (needed or not) from one group to another is a major signal of "freeloading" percentage changes.  If the large-group is desperate enough to pull major changes to hitherto stable social-contracts this signals a major change in the group's potential adaptiveness.  In this case, that public education may be heading down a path where it is unable to fulfill a universal role.
  • Costly commitment displays are another signal of adaptive group operation.  These displays may have little rational purpose (think religious food or clothing injunctions which have long since become moot), but have great practical purpose.  They test group-oriented commitment and establish a minimal "buy-in" cost.  If you can't pay the "buy-in" there's little chance many of the other necessary group-directed sacrifices can be "paid for".  Thus school funds are a secondary issue.  They represent a costly commitment cost used to detect the robustness of the group itself and any incoming actors.

Rather than private (and potentially charter) schools sucking up the funding slap to the face, another option is for them to screw Alberta curriculum and control and develop their own shadow system.  For instance, if I was a superintendent in such a situation, I might look for some partner schools, assess what Universities are really after for entrance standards and choose to meet those any way I can - say ACT tests, self-generated tests, and perhaps select Alberta diploma exams.  That might let me ignore courses which might not have much utility for my demographic (CALM, 100credit requirements, etc.)  University admission departments are surprisingly aware of how students from one school perform in post-secondary programs in relation to those from another school.  For instance, my father's admissions team was acutely aware of how physics scores from scores of provincial high schools normalized against each other.

So a shadow system is very possible.  Home Schooling attest to this.  But is it likely?

The Accreditation Hammer
Education's most adaptive benefit is accreditation.  This is what gets people jobs.  Eschewing this is no simple matter.  Home Schooling has had to fight lots of battles in this regard.  Its success waxes and wanes generationally.  Despite what futurists might hope, outcome based skill assessment is not a path many HR departments are eager to pursue in relation to new hires.  It is risky (structurally and individually).

Can private school shadow systems get around accreditation?  Perhaps.  They could pursue high school diplomas from other provinces, states or countries.  Perhaps an international baccalaureate diploma has the right cache and acceptance levels? This just leaves provincial requirements for teacher accreditation as the final straw.

Unions have a powerful hammer here.  But, the vagaries of politics are fickle.  Could anti-union ministers from a non-friendly political party use this as a wedge against Union control?  What is good for the goose is good for the gander.  Changes to social contracts (within group norms) makes all sorts of things possible.  Are private school teachers not instructing Alberta curriculum really required to be accredited by an Alberta professional body?  Why couldn't they be accredited by the international baccalaureate body?  What a blow to a Teacher's Union.  What a self-destructive "race-to-the-bottom".

The introduction of between group competition is never friendly and rarely goes as planned.  This is exceptionally true when moral norms are broken.  It is doubly true when large social landscapes are in the midst of a Great Moral Awakening (destabilization) such as that which the West is currently experiencing.

Falsification & Anticipated Counter-Arguments
The biggest problem with any of this reasoning is falsification.  The weakness of Bandura's social-exchange theory with respect to forward prediction comes to mind.  Sociology is good at exploring possibilities, but quite horrible at falsification and unbiased thinking.

The adaptive group approach I've taken depends upon the degree to which education functions an adaptive group.  Just because adaptive groups are sensitive to faith-breaches and freeloading changes doesn't mean education is.  For instance, transactional business are rather insensitive to such things.  Capitalism, is in fact, optimized for such an environment.

Things which suggest education functions as an adaptive group include:

  • Expectations of moral behaviour - If teachers treat students transactionally, only worrying about the presentation of information instead of the whole child, why is this wrong?  There is a large amount of unstated moral expectations which form a de-facto social contract.  Some places, like Alberta, are further ahead  than others in spelling this out.  Education is a highly moral enterprise.
  • The way teachers frame contract issues - is usually in terms of highly moralistic language 
  • Group supplied fitness benefits - accreditation, job opportunities, social networks,  jobs within the system itself.
  • Costly commitment displays - actors tend to "suck up" a lot of niche potential optimizations for the sake of larger social justice issues.  How many gifted students really need 12 years of k-12?  Why do they put up with it?
  • Sacred values - How do people within the group react to actors who say things like all children can not learn?  Is the debate rational? Or is it more about intentions.  The latter is almost certainly the case.  Students have many more degrees of freedom here than teachers or administrators. Are criminal acts done within the group considered to be a greater social breach than those done outside the group?  How would a teacher embezzling funds compare to a banker doing the same?
    • There are lots of ways to test sacred values:  Would a person with the same skills as a teacher but without the degree or any formal education be allowed to teach?  If clean hands are required, chances are you have a sacred value.
    • How much is your identity tied to your values?  Are you a teacher first or a person first?  Is the teacher identity tied up to moral aspects of teaching?
    • What degree of nuance is allowed within your group's morals? Can teachers be nuanced about classroom discipline, inclusion, streamlining, and other controversial ideas?
    • Offers of compromise tend to solidify your position.  If you exclude 3 students from extra support, we'll give your school the equivalent extra funding to spend on other students...
    • Harm by omission is seen as less sinful than harm by commission.  Breaking a taboo is worse than inaction.
  • Rituals -  Do people who complete all school outcomes without a formal school experience judged to have a similar experience to those that do?  If not, the chances are pretty good that there is a large hidden curriculum or that the experience itself is more ritualistic than we would otherwise suspect.
Education achievement has been shown to have a number possible genetic loci.  Orientation toward education is likely to have a genetic (as well as cultural) component.  This supports arguments for education as an adaptive group and counters arguments against this position.  Additionally, education is, over the long term, fitness enhancing both at the individual and group level (studies do suggest higher levels of education are correlated with fewer kids.  However, these studies don't account for what occurs during major societal upheavals like war and famine.  They also don't account for the very significant effects of rare individuals with exceptionally high fitness - the celebrity procreative effect.  The fitness case is not settled science.) 

If education does indeed function as an adaptive group, then actions which challenge existing norms /social contracts and signal potential in-group out-group changes are very likely to induce the expression of non-rational group dynamics.  This includes pushback against potential usurpers and freeloaders.  It also includes the possibility of spinning off competing shadow systems. As per basic group-evolution theory, spinoffs will likely freeload as much as possible until called out, while still functioning as a distinct group following distinct norms.  

The formation of a competing shadow system will challenge power structures, resulting in each side doubling down.  Provincially I'd expect teacher accreditation to be the first issue (following student accreditation).  The second issue I'd expect is back-door pressure on Universities to blacklist specific non-approved educational paths.  The third issue I'd expect is heavy handed legal requirements that all Alberta students have a "particular" type of educational experience or face the risk of attendance boards and embarrassing Social Services audits (for not providing a governmentally acceptable education).

Additional Reading

What's the Point of Moral Outrage

Moral Aspects of Teacher - Teacher Union Interactions

The Psychology of Moral Conviction

More from me on Sacred Values in Education

Friday, January 27, 2017

If Science Becomes Quasi-Religious

There is a huge furor over Trump's ban on EPA and other government agencies' public communication.  A similar thing happened in Canada under Prime Minister Harper.  Governments controlling the public communication of its employees via communication officers and chain of commands is pretty common.  Banning all communication is not.  Extreme filtering of science oriented departments is not common.  It reeks of 1984 right-think.

But is the reaction to this from the scientific community rational?  Here's the first clue some sacralization may be happening.

Today's media is in a direct battle with Trump.  Over the last year it has sensationalized every piece of information pertaining to him.  Some of this has been valid.  Some has been pure clickbait.  Some has been purposeful obfuscating polemization.  There certainly are no clean hands here.  The press has sown the seeds of its own destruction here; and, perhaps facilitated, or amplified the seeds of societal factionalization and decoherence.

Hypersensitivity around sacred values, like climate change, or possibly mundane actions done by unclean actors, is a clue that quasi-religious dynamics are at play.  Is "science" at risk of quasi-religiosity?  Let's look at an outlier - climate change.

Science or Religious Dynamics
The dynamics here do not look pretty in this regard.  Those who question any tenet of climate change are labelled deniers and are ostracized from academia.  This may or may not be reasonable.  Certainly a physicist who favours a luminous ether over gravitational space-time may not be functional.  Indeed this is the way most people view climate change.

But sharp critique is what advances science.  Science works because even the most cherished idea is always subject to factual counters.  Climate change really isn't subject to question.  It is happening.  But are all attacks about it "happening", or are some attacks based on questions about structural bias? (see this David Friedman lecture for example). Are some based upon resource prioritization?  What if resource prioritization is erroneously phrased in terms of climate change factuality? Does the position suddenly become "wrong" because of imprecise language? What if the terms of the argument are purposefully off to facilitate persuasion?  Is it now "wrong"? Are the decisions of a populace subject to persuasion (from both sides) illegitimate if they pick the "wrong" answer?  Are populace decisions only "right" when there is equal balance?  Is it only "right" if the balance occurs in proportion to the factual validity upon which external arbiters judge things to lay?

We can tell where on the quasi-religious spectrum we're at based upon answers to these questions.  This is similar to the basic technique Jonathan Haidt uses to investigate the ex post facto rationalization aspects of disgust.  Is an answer "wrong" based upon its conclusion or its premises?

Scientists tend to say both conclusions and premises have to be right.  For the field, this makes sense. But does it make sense in a representational democracy?

Non-Overlapping Magisteria
First off, there is no way to know what individuals think when they vote.  You can certainly study a sample of voters to try and ascertain their thinking, but often voters aren't fully aware of all their reasons.  As Haidt would say, complex decision making events are more emotional than rational.  So should irrationality defer to expertise in areas of public policy?

If the March for Science was framed in these terms, I would be really happy.  Instead it seems framed in terms of Scientists are right and Trump supporters are idiots.  But to be more charitable, it seems framed in terms of limiting the role popularism can have on scientific agencies.  This seems reasonable.  Reasonable until you think that scientific agencies are also responsible for policy...  Application of action from fact is not as clean cut as some Marchers make out.  This is especially true in ideological monocultures.

Over the last few decades an increasingly untenable elected representational system has offloaded many of its decision making duties to the bureaucratic/technocratic level.   This may be wise: this is where technical expertise lay.  It may be unwise: technocracy tends to become increasingly detached from "reality".

Technocratic detachment from reality fosters revolution.  Parental-governments that always know what is best for people (based upon aggregate averages) eventually run into independence backlash.  "Yes I know having a gun is statistically unsafe, but in my particular circumstance, with my particular abilities, with a psychotic stalker, I don't agree."  This is where the policy application of science runs into popularism.

Scientists are likely to say they have the right premises.  Popularists are likely to say they have the conclusion they like.  The problem is, the language both sides use to communicate has a very minimal cross sectional area.  Thus, at least to me, the fight is really over power.

I see the March for Science fighting for minimal interference from popularism.  Enter in through this institution.  Get filtered according to our advancement (& publishing) criteria, and then you can have a say.  This sets up a potential appeal-to-authority structure.  Classic religious stuff.  Appeal-to-authority structures become non-religious when values are not sacralized.  Unfortunately climate change is sacred.

This is not because of the facts (which are pretty black and white), but because of the morality ascribed to those facts.  For instance, is CO2 of 400ppm "bad"?  Was it "bad" in the Jurassic?  Is it "bad" because how it will effect population diversity?  The latter is a moral question.  It is clearly based upon decision of what outcome is wanted.  How is that different than popularist reasoning?

Where the Conflict Comes From
And that, I think is where the conflict comes from.

Because this is a fight, the chances of it running its course without an arms race is unlikely.  It is structurally likely that each side will begin to employ tools designed to win.  Thus groups of scientists and scientific agencies grow more and more likely to leave out key contextualizing details (Jurassic CO2, dogmatic outcome preferences, positive black-swans, etc.).  Popularists grow more and more likely to rely on persuasion rather than fact  (or pure appeal to dogmatic preference).  At some point the dogma comes out and groups rally around their poles.  Inter-group competition ensues, boundaries solidify and mediating cross-overs become sellouts.  Memetically fit cogents become sacralized (like climate change).  Religious dynamics take over because they tend to be very fit and resonance with adaptive group formation.

The End
The end isn't pretty.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that progressivism should and will win;  that science tied to a factually correct reality is more adaptive than popularism.  To me, this is where the danger lies.  This assumes a religious like blessing to factual reality.  This type of determinism facilitates inter-group competition: the other side is wrong so let's just jump to the end-game.

Unfortunately practical reality (popularism), is very evolutionary fit.  The ability to rally groups for action isn't always guaranteed to win out over technical ability.

So if you want to avoid needless escalation is the current social wars, think about what role you really want popularism to play?

So, at this point most people would say - science should win.  As discussion often does, group identity and righteousness has been re-enforced.

So let's imagine a department of justice which is ideologically/politically pure.  Say it is as homogenous as the EPA or National Parks Service.  Say 99.9% pure.  This department is very concerned that racial disparity in crime will lead to societal collapse.  They've got very good models on this.  They conduct and release lots of scientific studies (at a grant ratio of 1000:1 for the positive position).  Some of their facts seem robust, like IQ by race or quasi-racial grouping.  Obviously some people don't like them, but their critique is often about conclusions not the science.  Although, they often frame their attacks as a rejection of the science.  Aspects of these "facts" can certainly be questioned, but if you do you'll never get a job, advance in your career, and will socially ostracized as a regressive.

A government was elected that decided elimination of racial disparity was not a priority.  Perhaps they felt locking up lots of people of one race to reduce crime rates was not worthwhile.  Perhaps this is what the people voted for.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the voters were just racists.  But the department of justice and its scientists feel their expertise on the actions on crime should be minimally subject to dogmatically determined popularism.

Back to Quasi-Religion
While all analogies are necessarily poor and subject to lots of issues, the main point of this one is that ideologically homogeneous institutions create their own dynamics that eventually careen into the wall of populist dogma.  The limitation is that race is easier to delegitimize than "the jurassic wasn't so bad for life".  Science is agnostic about application.  Application may be informed by fact, but it is always moral.  The degree of morality varies, but group dynamics act to accentuate morality.  Thus application is rarely dis-entangeable from group dynamics and quasi-religious behavioural wells.

So, to me the best thing one can do is if you see a scientific meme becoming sacralized, don't employ quasi-religious tools to defend or sell it.  De-sacrilize it by publicizing critiques.  Make them as open as possible, and let the weakness of such arguments be their own downfall.

If nefarious persuasion techniques are used against your position in order to rally the masses, be aware that you may become a doppleganger to the dynamics you're criticizing.  Realize the public policy decisions in representational democracies are almost always based on outcome rather than expert thinking.

If you can't fathom why that may not be as catastrophic as you think, read some judgement aggregation literature, eat a dose of humble pie, and get used to the sacrifices required for pluralism.  Large groups are not stable with a total absence of corruption.  Large plural societies are only stable when they give "enough" space to corruptors with erroneous ideas.  Don't assume a 49% Trump vote means 49% of people deny the facts of climate change.  Some may deny the prioritization of actions. Some may have voted for other policies. Appearing like you're enforcing homogeneity of thought weaponizes inter-group competition which is as likely to make you operate religiously as it is to re-enforce adaptive group dynamics on the other side.

Monday, January 16, 2017

SJW offense hyper-trauma as a gift-of-the-spirit

Over the last few years I've been saying that social justice zealotry appears to conform to functional religious dynamics.  This means that while it might not be as supernatural as religion, the dynamics it produces are, nonetheless, similar.  I tend to use Atran as my base for these discussions.

Increasing social justice demonstrations of hyper-offence trauma show another similarity with (quasi) religion.

Gifts of the spirit are normally interpreted as things useful for fulfilling the mission of the Christian church.  Many of these things are related to organizational processes.  Others are related to social dynamics.  It's the latter that I want to focus on.

Here we have to delve a bit into some of the idiosyncrasies of Christian theology.  Some theologians distinguish fruits of the sprit with signs of the spirit.  To me that distinction is rather arbitrary.  The former tends to focus on long term demonstrables (e.g. kindness) while the latter tends to focus on episodic phenomenological-like signals (e.g. speaking in tongues).  The latter is most applicable to what I do, the scientific study of group-dynamics in moralized environments.

For instance Quakers often signalled being overcome by the spirit by physical quaking.  Shakers amplified the physical demonstrations of their Quaker roots.  Mormonism often signals spiritual envelopment and sincerity by crying.  Crying fits seem to be more frequent in group settings than in individual settings.  Shaking seems to fit a similar pattern.

One interesting possibility (not backed up by any rigorous research) is that gifts of the spirit tend to emerge during Great Religious Awakening moments.  For instance, Quakerism emerged during a Great Religious Awakening.  Mormonism did too.  Social justice emerged during our current Awakening (which we recognize due to moral unfreezing & strong within-society between-group competition).

So, I propose that the hyper-sensitive cycles physically expressed by social justice warriors reflect adaptive group dynamics.  Their functional purpose is to express hard-to-fake commitment and create a sense of synergy with a group and a group-agent moral Big Brother.  They are adaptive because of their role in group norm enforcement, in-group out-group detection and actor-group resonance.

Re-emergence of Secular Shamans

Media and Hollywood celebrities are certainly up-in-arms over the election of Donald Trump.  Post-trauma lethargy is coalescing into actionable intent.  This was certainly evidenced by Meryl Streep's polarizing moralizations.  Free speech is definitely meant to protect this type of commentary.  People are free to muster whomever they can to support whatever position they desire.  Hence my disdain for  people who attempt to use safe-space rhetoric as a way of expanding exclusion and preventing free-association.

The way anti-trump sentiment's form of expression is coalescing amongst various elite factions is very interesting.  Critiques, like those by Meryl Streep, media, and "grassroots" activists who propagate planned memes, centre on the morality of inaugurating an unfit, morally repugnant president.

Whether or not any of that is or is not true is beside the point (at least for socio-quasi-religious dynamics).  What seems clear is that the media and many celebrities are exploring roles as a secular-moral voices to an extent not hitherto done.  For example, cosmopolitan dogma on immigration, like almost another reactionary political position, is framed in moral terms rather than rational (homo-economicus) terms.

Preaching recreates the methodist exhortation well.  The intent isn't to explain a systemic philosophy, it is to exhort people toward certain classes of thought or action.Now, can't all moral speech be classified as exhortation?  Perhaps.  What's interesting though is the role the speech taker is occupying.

Tribal religious leaders have a functional evolutionary role as societal coherers.  This is most easily accomplished through supernaturally enhanced Big Brothers.  A Psychosocial definition of Shamans highlight some interesting parallels (you just have to remove the supernatural elements and replace them with middle-counter-intuitive secularism).

The basic idea is that Shamans represent a interface between people and the supernatural.  One view is that Shamans represents the distress experienced by  the shaman's patrons.  Shamans use dramatizations to direct the feelings of their patrons and resolve social tension.  The shaman helps patrons appreciate symbols that address, interpret and contribute to the resolution of their most pressing problems and conflicts.

One way this happens is by helping people organize their feelings and find representational outlets.  They also personify the social tensions and patterns people are under.  Performance is a key aspect of the technical definition of Shamanism.  Perhaps this is a necessary part of this cognitive group-psychology well, perhaps it isn't.  The key distinguishing feature between Shamanism and standard prophetic roles lies in the physicality of action and depth of  spiritual trance.

"In America, for example, revivalists and evangelical preachers have held great appeal for many people from the seventeenth century to the present day.  The compelling power of these preachers is in large part the result of their ability to dramatically embody the emotional problems and social tensions besetting their patrons," (Porterfield, 1987, p. 729).

So my best guess on what we're seeing with the mainstream media and celebrities like Streep is an unwitting progression into the socio-cognitive well of Shamanistic exhortation.  Clearly this role is strongly mediated by the removal of supernatural elements.  But the key is that these elites are trying to represent the socio-cognitive tension many people are now experiencing under a Trump presidency and electoral rejection of social progressivist tenets.  Expression comes out in physical acts: content and fact don't matter as much as "getting the point across".  This is clearly a post-truth landscape.  This is clearly scary.

From a multi-level selection lens, we're seeing competition amongst elites fall into the traditional bifurcation of formal and informal power expression.  This nouveau priest/shaman class is evolving into informal power expression.

This makes sense.  Celebrities, especially actors, have a ready vehicle on hand to shape people's thinking.  People listing due to prestige bias and perceptual landscape transformation.  See enough movies portraying gun ownership as bad, and you'll be tempted to think of it as a de-facto social norm.  Once speech clearly resonates around said morality and the resonances become hard to ignore.  They polarize.

I suspect one of the keys for people to remember is that religion generally does not look like the systemic theology people often take for granted.  Religion and religious actors have a functional well which resolves around social coherence.  Highly rational systemic approaches are merely one of many solutions for social coherence (which, like Christianity and Islam, happens to be optimized for expansion to out-groups).  Tribal religion is fine with population binormalization.  In fact, it is optimized to separate in-groups from out-groups via focus on over-arching highly implicit moral dogmas and memes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Radical Progressivism as Intra-Elite Competition

I'm going through the third of Peter Turchin's excellent series of the Structural Demographic theory of societal integration & disintegration.  His main thesis is that three variables complexly interact to produce the disintegrative phase of a secular cycle.

  1. overpopulation
  2. elite overproduction
  3. state fiscal crises.
Elite overproduction is a first order term.  The others are secondary (with a fiscal crises being the straw that breaks the camel's back rather than the deep cause of disintegration).  These lead to three fairly related predictions:

  1. Labour oversupply
  2. Elite overproduction
  3. Instability
In Ages of Discord, his analysis of the United States current foray into societal disintegration, he again stresses the role of elite overproduction as a critical factor.  Competition within this group has lots of negative repercussions.  In this post, I'm simply going to focus on one aspect of this competition; creating a steep fitness gradient to immiserate threshold actors.

Living in Vancouver I was always amazed at the social status marginal elites thought a $5 organic q-tip signalled.  It was quite amazing.  "Well, I only buy cotton from this farm in Nairobi, because they're the only ones I trust to really value their workers".  While this obviously has some very real moral implications, its role as both a virtue signaller and a gauntlet for others is clear.  

Similarly, I wonder if many aspects of social justice dynamics don't reflect the set up of a structural system designed to bifurcate marginal-elite population, heightening the costs of residency.  I'll assume billionaires find such organic sourcing discussions rather boorish - after all if you need to worry about the cost of such things you really aren't near the top.  Its more a behavioural test for aspirants or a quaint "religious-like" pet project for members who are otherwise bored and inclined to moral displays.  Conveniently enough though, minimal expression through a small number of moral agents serves the top class well.  It biases structures to impose high entry & residency costs.  There are lots of necessary but not sufficient markers.  This disproportionately affects marginal aspirants.  It also enables the immiseration of others.

Turchin says it like this
"Low labor costs lead not only to declining living standards for a large segment of the population (especially unskilled ones), but also to a favourable economic conjuncture for the elites.  There are several important consequences of this development.  First, the elites become accustomed to ever greater levels of consumption.  Furthermore, competition for social status fuels "conspicuous consumption".  Thus the minimum level of consumption necessary for maintaining the elite status exhibits runaway growth...Eventually, increasing numbers of elites and elite aspirants will have to translate into declining consumption levels for some, leading to the condition that has been termed elite overproduction.  Intraelite competition for limited elite positions in the economy and government will become more fierce...These "surplus" elites must challenge the established elites for access to elite positions, or acquiesce in downward mobility."

The key is competition.  If you can game others into setting up a competition structure that doesn't really affect you, all the better.  Many aspects of social justice signalling seem to fit this niche.  
  • Immigration - high immigration is closely tied with historic levels of inequality
  • Affirmative action - definitely a plus for minorities (& for societies if not over-extended), but it has a disproportional effect on aspiring elites and near-elites (e.g. a director level position, but not an entry level nor CEO position)
  • Privilege (I just can't justify the societally destructive racist sexist moniker that normally goes with this..) - this sets up structural impediments to marginal elites.  How many billionaires have opportunities limited because of their privilege?  Aspirants, however do.
  • Protesting - Getting arrested tends to disproportionately affect middle class opportunities.  At a high level of elitedom it becomes a badge of honour.
While I certainly might be overextending this analysis, it is interesting to think about the degree to which social justice signalling sets up structures useful for near-elite bifurcation.  While such social justice undoubtably has many good ends, in terms of Turchin's social demographic theory, elite over production is key.  Competition within this group therefore has a more significant role on societal cohesion than what social justice may be attempting.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why It's Imperative to Treat Social Justice as a Religion

I've talked before about why it is reasonable to consider zealous forms of social justice as a (quasi) religion.  After reading Peter Turchin's excellent book UltraSociety, I think I need to restate the case from a slightly different, more pressing direction.

United States (and perhaps many other Western) societies are fragmenting.  The current US political election attests to this.  Both sides are vehement about the moral value of their candidate: Democrats for cosmopolitanism & rule of order and Trump for nationalism & elite destabilization.  Negative sum attitudes and the "bothering" of fellow citizens (legal & illegal) is certain to continue. No matter who wins the election, the blowback will exasperate rather than dampen the growing dichotomy.

Moral values adhere societies.  Western society has certainly lost a lot of its asabiya. How to get it back?

The big lesson is that pluralism is essential.  Beneke shows, that in America, punctuated periods of pluralism correlate with increased levels of toleration, social progress, and perhaps societal progress.  Certainly pluralism provided an escape valve for balkanizing tensions.  The one time it didn't civil war ensued: federalism with a flat social structures and extreme forms of liberty with retrograde heirachical structures were immiscible.

We're back at that point.

Failing to consider Social Justice as a religion makes the probability of achieving a pluralistic solution less likely.

Cultural selection encountered a stable point for large group cohesion in the expression of Big Gods (moralizing agents who can see people's intentions, care about your intentions and meet out punishment & reward).  Effective rule of law can certainly supplant semi-embodied dieties.  But we still need an ability to see each other as governed by moral principles.  This is the rub.

Social Justice's moral principles are very amorphous.  They don't have the systemic theological quality that universalizing religions do (at least yet).  Things are still congealing.  This is part of the problem.  Rapidly evolving moral values present an existential trust threat.  While this may seem silly, what humanist is going to kill a right-wing survivalist.  Nonetheless, its a (irrational) factor that must be weighted.

Additionally, Social Justice does not consider itself a religion.  Indeed the intersections associated with its roots are very intertwined with the marginalization of formal, empowered, religions.  While this marginalization is very naive (aren't safe spaces very similar to religious spaces, and social justice university very similar to old religious universities), society needs a structure that is going to facilitate social justice's pluralization.  We need a way to allow social justice's to talk about, share, and value their own specific world view, while allowing others to politely disagree without resorting to hate-fact wars, rhetoric and uni-directional dialogue.

The best way to do this is via structures everyone understands.  This is religion.  Religions are allowed to have very vehement beliefs that outsiders might consider loony and dangerous if universalized. For instance, mormons and muslims consider alcohol (and recreational drugs) bad. If forced on all society you'd have all the social problems of the prohibition era.  Yet this within-group belief doesn't threaten others (at least very much).  We need to be able to do the same with Social Justice: see parts of the movement for the good that it does, and see the hyper-sacred aspects for the religious spandrels they are.  But, more than this, we need to have a way to politely say, I support your right to believe and proselytize your values without forcing me to acquiesce my own values and without forcing me into an embittering defence (or offence).

Give people space for their beliefs, and have an easy structural solution for letting them be who they are and letting you be who you are.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pepe as Quasi-Religion

If you've read other posts on this blog you probably are aware that I interpret quasi-religion in a functional way: a social structure characterized by adaptive group dynamics coalesced by morality and sacralizing acts.  I use List & Pettit's judgement aggregation work for morality and Atran's In God We Trust for sacralizing acts.

In practice this means I tend to interpret religion rather liberally: it's mainly constrained by the role of Big Brothers, Big Brother feedback, and resonating rituals and hypersensitive sacred value norms.

So with this in mind, I've been finding the emergence of Pepe fascinating.  What are the main things to watch for?
  • Does its satirizing provide group-level protections for individual agents?
  • Around what things will group level morality emerge?
  • What are its sacramental acts (if any)?
The most interesting thing about the Pepe meme is its ironical essence.  While many Pepe memes are downright disgusting, my academic interest isn't determining moral values or costs. Rather, it's seeing what dynamics a given social phenomenon captures or portends.

One thing Pepe introduces is a bifurcating phase change between social justice norms and individual independence norms.  This is representative of a classic-levels-of-selection tension.  In this particular case, one side pushes to eliminate discrimination (certainly a noble goal - although means definitely matter), the other side pushes against this (or perhaps for some sort of individual liberty).  The sacred values of both sides clash.

Social justice's sacred values seems to center on removing all quarter for discrimination.  Rituals associated with this revolve around social change acts, protests, & virtue signalling (individually and via mob action).  The sacred value on the Pepe side have yet to settle.  My suspicion is that it will settle down around acts of irony and satire: a very unusual, Volterian position.

It's unusual because pure acts of protest are parasitically dependent upon their host: conditions change and the core unifying act dissolves.

In terms of quasi-religion, mocking and ridicule will be the equivalent of social protest and action. The interesting thing here is that such satire is really easy to do.  Fighting against something is always easier than fighting for something.

Because low brow satire against things doesn't have as much unifying power as protests & rallies for something, alt-right satire is at a population-limit disadvantage.  In this dimension it can't unify as large a grouping as social justice.  However, satirical meme production has minimal costs.  On this dimension it has a slight population-limit advantage over social justice virtue signalling: finding someone or something to signal against isn't quite as easy as whipping up a piece of low-brow satire/offense.

Pepe also gets a slight population advantage limit because rebellion in the West is socially favoured over hegemony (within-group competition at the nation level currently seems to be favoured over between-group competition). So Pepe has room to grow as long as:

  1. Pepe meme costs are low (anonymity can be maintained so norm enforcement punishment is minimized)
  2. Existential nation-level threats stay minimized (between group selection pressure stays below within group pressure)
Point 2 is an interesting one.  Existential threats from tolitalitarian Islamic extremists are minimized by social justice values.  Existential threats from internal right wing extremist are maximized.  Pepe is set to receive high levels of norm compliance enforcement.  This should drive the group into protective adaptive group dynamics (which certainly can be facilitated by quasi-religious dynamics).

However, the most interesting thing here is the moral mission likely to emerge with Pepe: A duty to mock and ridicule.  This is a very odd religious value to have.  It very much reminds me of pre-revolutionary 18th century France during the time of Voltaire and the popularization of satire.  

It also reminds me of  D.S. Wilson's analysis of self-interest vs. group-interest in religions

mutual help
Table 1: classically religious "altruistic" groups

rational self-interest
blind desires
irrational values

Table 2: Randian "self-interested" groups

From this analysis, Pepe, is likely to turn into a self-interest weapon.  Ridicule is directed at those things an individual wants to take down, rather than those thing the group necessarily wants to take down.

Extreme individuality sews the seeds of its own group destruction.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Education's (Unintentional) Structural Role In Caste Formation

In this post I'm going to probe a rather ambitious topic: the role of education in relation to caste formation.  What makes it even more ambitious is that in lieu of descriptor based approach, I'm going to see what's required to get there via ground-up evolutionary theory.  

I'll skip evolution theory basics and start of by referencing David Sloan Wilson's 2x2 matrix comparing self-effects vs. group-effects in religious and homo economicus groups.  Transition between two stable moral equilibria leads to between-group heterogeneity (different morals for different within-societal groups).  

Next, I'll try to reduce things down a manageable game-theory scenario. This will involve a fair bit of  variable filtering.  Reduction will occur via cultural transmission tools and some basic organizational theory.  Cultural transmission will then be used a second time to analyze the likely evolution of surviving scenarios. This will yield a set of quasi-stable states that describe commoner (producer) - coordinator (elite) morality and behavioural expression.  

At the end I'll tie things back to education.  This will be done by verifying whether "education" has the potential to mediate stable state tensions.

But watch out, the process is long, and at this stage of the game, lots of hand-waving is involved.  The purpose isn't to prove things academically... it's to see what evolution theory can potentially say about caste formation, particularly in terms of the physics to which institutionalized public education is subject.

This last summer I got the chance to climb around a number of Mayan ruins in Belize.
 This got me thinking about the role education might play in caste formation.  I mean, how can you not help but think in terms of castes with a civilization  (and its pyramids) so structured around physical separation...

Questions that came to mind were:
  • Are there structural differences between aristocratic education and commoner education?  If so why? What might these differences entail?
  • Why do we expect our own education system not to fall into (or perpetuate) historic types of social dimorphism?  
  • Does education respond to, drive, or simply resonate class separation?
Over the last year, I strongly suspected these questions were impossible to answer.  Perhaps they are.  However, Wilson's recent book, Does Altruism Exist, had a chapter that, I think, filled in enough holes for me to naively imagine a way through an exceedingly complicated causal quagmire.

In this post I'll layout a rough sketch to see if my thoughts are plausible.  The intent is to see to what extent the dynamics described by multi-level selection theory illuminate deep educational questions that otherwise are stuck in the realm of speculative sociology.  Along the way we'll hit some interesting points about elite (coordinator) - commoner (producer) dynamics.  In fact, most of the journey will focus on establishing a solution space from which to quickly and superficially jump into the educational caste question.

The whole process will have a number of interesting tie-ins with Peter Turchin's secular cycle work.

The work David Sloan Wilson did using multi-level selection theory (MLS) to understand religion showed that evolutionary tools have promise for social analysis.  Evolutionary tools provide a first principle approach to social system tensions.  The problem is, how far can we take these tools.  Specifically, what do these tools reveal about caste formation, education, and education's uncertain role in caste formation?

Part of Wilson's background work in this field involved analyzing Hutterite belief structures (a luddite Christian sect which emigrated from Germany to western North America).  He used a 2x2 matrix to characterize expressed social beliefs in terms of individual vs others benefit.  This was done via inferred measures of relative fitness.  Here's the table he produced.

mutual help
Table 1: classically religious "altruistic" groups

The interesting finding was that other successful, stable religions had no mixed benefits: world views  (morality) were either win-win (+ for self & + for others) or lose-lose (- for self & - for others). Indeed a Templeton conference on the topic found that leading scholars from the major world religions said that their religions' beliefs did not meet classical definition of altruism: altruistic actions were, in effect, transactional (albeit often on a supernatural plane for future imagined rewards).

Wilson then applied his matrix to homo economics.  For poetic justice, he used Ayn Rand's philosophy of self-interest.  Luckily, not all pointed comedy sacrifices validity. Rand's quasi-religious tenets match quasi-religious expositions of Amway and other similar self-interest-as-good organizations.  This includes the cut-throat world of self-justifying Wall street finance.  Here's what Wilson found via a textual analysis of Atlas Shrugged:

rational self-interest
blind desires
irrational values

Table 2: Randian "self-interested" groups

A similar black & white solution emerged.   Wilson explains this with a functional analysis.
Most enduring religions are functionally similar in their ability to create highly motivated and well-organized groups - but the proximate mechanisms that evolve in any particular case are hugely variable... 
An adaptive worldview has two requirements.  First, it must be highly motivating psychologically.  Ideally, it should cause people to rise out of bed every morning brimming with purpose. Second, the actions motivated by the wolrdview must outcompete the actions motivated by other world views. - p. 86
Mixed solutions are unstable because they have lower relative fitness: they are either not motivating & hence don't succeed in the between-group selection world, or they are too costly & hence don't succeed in the within-group selection world.  In other words, mixed cases don't thread the eye of the multi-level selection needle*.  

Let's take Wilson's findings at face value and assume both the classical religious (table 1) and Randian (table 2) position are different proximate solutions to the same ultimate functional problem  -group coordination in the context of between-group & within-group selective tension.  Of course, there can be an infinite number of proximate solutions to any ultimate problem.  However, in terms of highly moral systems, Wilson's empiricism (which certainly isn't a census of possibilities) has only provided two.  

We'll go with what we have.  To compensate for this first source of potential error, well 'd our best to accommodate some looseness as we build up our structure.  

If these two moral states exist within a society, it's interesting to explore societal heterogeneity via homogeneous sub-groups. This will be our major focus for the day.  Of course, we shouldn't just jump to our preferred case.  We'll start off by exploring some different ways these moral states can mix in a multi-level world.  This will involve looking at 
  • individual moral transitions
  • within-group heterogeneity
  • migration
  • between-group heterogeneity.

Individual Transitions
Individual switching from one state to another can produce within-group heterogeneity.  Are these conversions possible in human moral groups?

I can't see why not.  Self interested Wall streeters have become religious: religious people have become self-interested Wall streeters.  However, common observations suggest conversion rates aren't high*. 

Within-group Heterogeneity
Does low conversion/migration lead to within-group heterogeneity?  For a major orientation like group-interest vs. self-interest, the answer seems to be no.  Exploitive freeloading seems to be the major dynamic at play in this type of human group.  Migration is perhaps a second order term.  More on this later.  Right now we'll just talk about Wilson's empiricism.

Wilson's empirical altruist vs. self-interest moral matrixes are about as mutually exclusive as you can get.  (Even Trump might not be able to reliably espouse them both).  However, by definition, non-zero conversions/migrations do lead to some level of heterogeneity, for some period of time. However, within-group heterogeneity is dampened by cultural norm enforcement (which would be extremely high in cases of mutually exclusive morals) and other within-group pressures.  

The whole scenario is yet another instance of between-group selection vs. within-group selection tension.  Wilson's empiricism suggests that in this case the tension only produces binary morals (at least morals which are stable).  Here's how this plays out.  

Between-group Heterogeneity
There is some very well-established work simulating how slight preference biases lead to polarized landscapes.  Polarized equilibria emerge in conditions where slight preferential differences can propagate.  The resulting landscape is divided, even though across-group averaging doesn't reveal purity pockets.  (One of MLS's strengths is getting past the across-group averaging other evolutionary theories struggle with.)

There's been lots of work exploring the mechanisms by which polarization propagates.  For instance, Timothy Ryan's 2013 paper on the political consequences of moralized attitudes suggests that moralized attitudes reorient behaviour from maximizing gains to adhering to rules.  (I'd add, that nothing per se prevents these rules from being either altruistic or Randian).  Ryan's work, like many other's, suggests moralized attitudes lead people to oppose compromises and punish the opposition. 

In conclusion, a multi-level approach often sees within-group heterogeneity as a case of separate lower level homogeneities.  Within our theoretical (and real) society we have groups of classically religious altruists and groups of Randian self-interesters.  Therefore our societal group level is morally heterogeneous, but at a lower level we have morally homogeneous groups. While reduction ad naseum is possible, we'll leave things here.  Interested folks are directed to Mckelvey, Lichtenstein & Andriani's excellent scale free organizational theory work.

More on Migration
As was mentioned, migration is one way to maintain within-group heterogeneity in environments which otherwise lead to single state equilibria (see Okasha or Wilson, or any of a heap of other evolution biologists here).  Wilson backs this fact up with a number of fairly conclusive experimental studies which show that migration levels need to be fairly "high" to maintain heterogeneity between "altruists" and "self-interesters".

As already mentioned, in a case of two mutually exclusive moral states, it is expected that migration rates would need to be very high to overcome the damping effects of norm compliance against polar opposites.  Thus, in our world of classical religious altruistic morals, Randian self-interested morals, and observed rates of migration between them, migration is unlikely to be a source of substantial within-group moral heterogeneity. (standard distributions will of course still apply, sigmas will just be tight).

The more homogeneous a group is, the more potential benefits there are for corruptive freeloading.  However, norm enforcement becomes commensurately stronger.  A lone altruist can infiltrate a group of self-interesters and outcompete them by forming a sub-level between-groups.  A lone self-interester can infiltrate a group of altruists and outcompete them by freeloading.  This is done by successful within-group competition.

Function at a high level of selection requires the minimization of lower level competition.  Conflict minimization can enable heterogeneity (albeit temporarily if there are fitness differences and no balancing tensions).  What proximate solutions minimize this ultimate constraint?

One solution is to suppress any tools that could be used for exploitive self-interest.  However, in a modern globalist world, forced suppressions (strong man dictators) tend to be unstable over time.

What about a mutually agreeable rule-of-law strong-man?  Evidence shows this solution is gaining ground, and perhaps facilitating a cultural move to a higher level of selection (a socially-progressive-open-border world, aka supranationalism).  However, as a stable suppression tool, 2nd amendment gun debates and migration crises certainly show this particular  move to a higher level of selection doesn't have the strength to fully minimize within-group competition (...yet).

But there are certainly other means to minimize exploitive self-interest.  Here are two:
  • Extreme dependence.  The more dependent people are on each other, the less likely they are to destroy their mutually supportive environment.  I believe MacIntyre's networks of giving and receiving is a trendy treatise in this direction (at least among economic philosophers).  He supposes that mutually dependence can stabilize virtuous behaviour.
  • The Hillary email scandal. One set of rules for the little folk, another set of rules for the important folk.  

Extreme dependence is facilitated by role specialization.  In uneducated situations, roles need not require lots of proprietary skills, just the appearance of such.  Medieval guilds come to mind here.  Skills were largely thought to be non-portable.  Perhaps they were, at least to a number of people, or to a level or artistic mastery.  But they certainly weren't to everyone, nor to a "good-enough" level.  Especially not to the extent guilds would have had people believe.  I suspect the same is true of today's CEO and political elites.

Roles are essential, but interchangeability between roles, is perhaps artificially or purposefully dampened.  This is the educational tie in we'll eventually get to.

Hypocritical Standards
As Haidt's moral relativism studies highlight, people are pretty good at justifying moral dissonance.   Without referencing any particular works from this field, memory suggests that the justification of "different rules for different people" is fairly contingent upon:
  • people's differentiability (clothes, station, behaviour, etc),
  • perceived utility gains (trickle down economics, differential innovation, role specialization, etc.),
  • the degree to which this confers prestige to the greater society & the degree to which that confirmation is internally valued,
  • the acceptability of castes (either meritocracy or hereditary) 
So, in a case of low migration, between-group selection, and within-group selection, we get a society with multiple homogeneous moral groups.  Conflict between these distinguishable groups can be minimized by extreme dependence and/or distinct rules (and perhaps other mechanisms not discussed).

Another interesting point here is Gunia and Kim's (2016) recent paper of the behavioural benefits of other people's deviance.  Other people's deviance surprisingly increases the work levels of conformists.  Conformist dissonance is decreased as deviator distance / perceived separation is increased.

Caveats & Limitations
We're interested in exploring commoner (producer) - coordinator (elite) interaction. Most societies have minimal migration between these groups.  Rather than rigorously verifying if commoner-elite migrations levels in societies are enough to match the high biological migrations levels necessary for heterogeneity, we'll stick with common sense empirics and reasonably assume that migration levels are "low" enough to keep within-groups homogenous "enough".

Right now, we have binary moral options:  classical religious "altruism" and Radian self-interest.  We're relying on Wilson's empiricism that mixtures of these moralities are unstable.  But, we can't discount other different stable moral states.  Finding & categorizing them is just beyond scope.  So perhaps we should call this entire argument a first order approximation...

While we've made a cursory case for societal heterogeneity via within group homogeneity, I think it behoves us to explore it in more detail.  This time, let's look at it from the perspective of time stability.

Empiricism provides a strong answer to this question. Wilson's empirically observed a number of religions.  Their morals were similar.  While the n was very small, experience backs up his findings: religions value community and abhor self-interest.  Indeed, academics like Norezayan have argued that religion was the key cultural evolution change that facilitated the emergence of beyond-tribe civilization.  Facilitation happened via imaginary moral big brothers, their 3rd party moral standards, and their imaginary supernatural enforcements and rewards.  The result was enough self-interest suppression to allow (group) selection at a higher level.

Let's go to the moral enforcement literature for some more support for within-group moral homogeneity.

Moral enforcement literature, like that by Ryan above, suggests within-group heterogeneity with respect to fundamental moral rules is, generally, unstable.  Groups which can't judge/punish individual moral behaviour lack the conditions necessary to be adaptive units at the between-group level of selection.  Judgement aggregation work by List & Pettit suggests groups bias actors via the emergence of group morals.  Norm enforcement occurs in terms of acquiescence to group moral intentions, not to specific propositions.

Let's explore what evolutionary transition theory has to say with regard to competition and levels of selection.  Macho & Roze (2000) summarize the evolutionary transitions literature from a multi-level perspective.

The basic problem in an evolutionary transition is how and under what conditions a group becomes a new kind of individual. Initially, group fitness is taken to be the average of the component lower level units, but as the evolutionary transition proceeds, group fitness becomes decoupled from the fitness of its members. Indeed, the essence of an evolutionary transition is that the lower level units must in some sense “relinquish” their “claim” to fitness, that is to flourish and multiply, in favor of the new higher level. This transfer of fitness from lower to higher levels occurs through the evolution of cooperation and conflict modifiers that restrict the opportunity for within group change and enhance the opportunity for between group change. Until eventually, the group becomes an evolutionary individual in the sense of having heritable variation in fitness at its level of organization and in the sense of being protected from the ravages of within group change by adaptations that restrict the opportunity for non-cooperative behaviors 
So, to rehash our case,

  • There is pressure for moral homogeneity within groups.  
  • However, populations tend to be normally distributed.  In free-loading terms, this means pure moral homogeneity is an illusion.  However, as we've already argued, standard deviations are likely to be small and directly related to the quasi-relgious nature of the group (whether the quasi-religion be supernatural, atheistic, or agnostic in doctrine).  
  • But, mixed morality within a group doesn't match up with Wilson's findings.  It doesn't do well in game based multi-level selection accountings based upon individual and group benefits.
  • Therefore we have two groups, which, while distinct are fairly homogeneous within each one.  If the group is large enough, this homogeneity can polarize into distinct sub-groups.

Again, at this point we have up to two homogenous groups distinguished by their mutually exclusive moralities.  Migration levels minimally disturb homogeneity.  We've discussed two ways to minimize between group conflict: extreme dependence and different rules/morality for different distinguishable groups.  Now we'll flush out group-size effects.  This is necessary because our aim to is explore the commoner (producer) - coordinator (elite) dynamics which might relate to caste formation.  As we'll soon see, (relative) size matters.

Anthropologists suggest elite hierarchies solve the coordination problems of larger-than-tribal-sized societies.  Instead of expounding on the anthropology literature though,  I'll cite something from the group dynamic literature. This also ties things back to our previous discussion on within-group pressure for homogeneity. Kessler & Cohrs' (2008) state:
The development of arbitrary conventions by the tendency to conform to the majority has the additional effect of solving coordination problems in social interactions (e.g., driving on the left or the right side, signs of approval and disapproval, or making contracts; see Skyrms, 1996). According to Alvard and Nolin (2002), such solutions to coordination problems are necessary for successful mutual cooperation. Several studies showed that common knowledge serves such a coordination function (e.g., Metha, Starmer, & Sugden, 1994) and is necessary for individuals to assume (indirect) reciprocity, which again facilitates cooperation (Yamagishi, Jin, & Kiyonari, 1999). 
Network theory tends to express the co-ordination problem in terms of complexity science.  Kauffman's Santa Fe approach to complexity summarizes a basic network proposition:
"some connections-not very many, actually- among agents improves system fitness, but that fitness deteriorates as the number of connections between each agent and various other agents increases toward the maximum." (Kauffman, 1993, p. 45)    
With respect to leadership, organizational theory, anthropology, group dynamics, and network theory agree that leadership (formal or informal) is essential for large groups to survive.

In anticipation of flat hierarchy critiques, let me just say the flat organizations simply increase informal - emergent leadership at the expense of formal role-based leadership.  Leadership doesn't disappear, it just becomes more fluid.

Group Size vs. Corruption
Larger groups face the tensions of between-group and within-group selection.  Large groups are facilitated by relaxing norm enforcement.  This enables group size to increase.  However too much looseness causes group implosion: corruption costs exceed group related individual benefits.

We now have a bunch of factors at play:
  • Coordinators (leaders) are essential,
  • Large groups must tolerate moderate corruptive freeloading (to enable growth to their size),
  • Different rules for different groups require individuals from between the groups to be differentiable,
  • Between group migration stabilizes between group heterogeneity,
  • Between group dependencies stabilize between group heterogeneity.
Now let's look at all our variable to see if estimating the "cost/benefit" of each is feasible.  The intent is to "game" a least cost solution.

  1. Coordination
  2. Corruption
  3. Group size
  4. Within group norm enforcement
  5. Between group norm enforcement
  6. Between group conflict costs
  7. Between group dependency
  8. Migration
Unfortunately, this leads to 8! permutations.  Gaming is rather pointless in this landscape.  But, this isn't the least of the problems....  Some variable are not binary.  Also, all factors can vary within each of the two groups.  Plus, a number of variables are recursively related (for instance corruption, group size, migration, dependency, etc.)

Some back-of-the-envelope logic might filter things a bit.  

1.  Organizational theorists make a pretty good case that coordination is essential.  

2 & 3. Equation based modelling suggests group size is directly correlated with corruption levels: positive with low corruption, negatively after a corruption threshold. Thus small groups either have low or high levels of corruption while large groups have moderate levels of corruption (I'm obviously ignoring non-steady states....).

Coordinator (elite) group size is all but guaranteed to be smaller than commoner (producer) group size.  Food pyramid logic applies.  

4 - 6.  Norm enforcement is related to corruption and hence group size. Low corruption scenarios probably just have low individual costs associated with norm enforcement.  Norm enforcement may be proactive.  This minimizes costs while maximizing adherence.  Similarly, high corruption scenarios probably have high individual norm enforcement costs.  Who wants to tell their Mafia neighbour to be nice?  This probably leads to reactivity: only putting out necessary fires.  Of course high cost norm enforcement strategies also facilitate weaponized enforcement: you can dump lots of costs into punishing an "innocent" competitor and sell it as group oriented altruism...

The take away is that norm-enforcement correlates with corruption which correlates with group size.

7.  Recursion between group dependency, coordination and group size also helps a back-of-the envelope approach.  The larger the group, the more coordinators and followers (producers) will depend upon each other.  Role specialization is likely.

8.  Malthusian logic suggests coordinators should be fairly sensitive about immigration, but not too concerned about emigration.  Two percent migration from 100 coordinators into 10,000 commoners will have little effect.  Two percent migration of 10,000 commoners into 100 coordinators will have significant effects.

Observations of elite - commoner migration suggests it happens, albeit to different levels.  Meritocracies tend to have more migration between elite and commoner classes than mature hereditary systems.  As previously mentioned, migration is unlikely to substantially effect within-group homogeneity.

Additionally, cultural evolution work by Richerson and others illuminate the role of prestige bias, vertical transmission and horizontal transmission.  The relevant take-a-way is that success gets copied.

Winnowing Down the Solution Space Even More
We've now obtained a feasible solution space by introducing lots of biased filtering and losing a good deal of validity. However, things are now manageable.  Here's what the filtered space looks like:

  • small group size (relative to commoners)
  • low or high corruption with low or high norm enforcement. A high corruption state likely has high individual norm enforcement costs and is likely reactive.  A low corruption state likely has low individual norm enforcement costs and is likely proactive.
  • vertical transmission, within-group horizontal transmission, content bias, guided variation, oblique transmission 
  • immigration sensitivity
  • large group size (relative to coordinators)
  • mid level of corruption
  • prestige bias from coordinators, vertical transmission within-group horizontal transmission, content bias, guided variation, oblique transmission 
It's probably good to point out that I'm going to simplistically assume commoners have less prestige than coordinators.  For example, actors have high prestige by aren't what one would normally think of as a coordinator.  So let's just expand our definition of coordinator to include individuals that don't just coordinate the work of subordinates (a typical leader), but also coordinate sociality. In other words, were I to use a functional definition of coordinators, it would be in terms of their dependency upon commoners (producers) for survival.

Now the type of cultural transmission within each group, while an interesting speculation is superfluous for staging game based assessments.  Similarly we don't have to worry about relative group sizes much - as mentioned there is a negligible chance that a society will be able to support more coordinators than commoners (producers).  This leaves corruption and moral orientation as primary terms.  Our back-of -the envelope logic has reduced our solution space down to two dimensions!

We now have a number of scenarios to shoehorn into Wilson's "effect on self - effect on others" approach. But we can filter things a bit more...

A low corruptive state is only likely to exist with altruistic morals.  Despite Ayn Rand's assumption that pure-self interest can be societally stable, actual research suggests it exist in pockets of limited size.  Radical self-interest facilitates high levels of corruption.  It does not facilitate low levels of corruption.  Thus:
  • low corruption only goes with altruism
  • mid corruption can go with either altruism or self-interest
  • high corruption only goes with self-interest

This brings the number of cases we need to look at down to six, as can be seen below.

Cases 1-3: Low coordinator corruption

Case 1
Case 1 is the utopian state: everyone is altruistic (albeit commoners more in a lip-service way than coordinators).  The classic downfall of utopian altruism is its neglect of the exponential advantage cheating has in increasingly homogenous groups.  Thus the cheating payoff for individual coordinators acting in exploitively self-interested ways is high (cases 1-3).

We should note however, utopian like altruism can be stable if there are strong: 
  • perpetually increasing norm enforcements, 
  • highly costly commitment displays, 
  • highly persuasive (and usually imaginary) Big Brothers, 
  • convincing post-mortal transactional trades, and 
  • meritocratic advancement from the commoner class via selection for the most altruistic.

Commoner Evolution
Altruistic commoners (case 1) can switch to self-interest (via a case 1-3-2 progression).  Prestige bias from altruistic coordinators to commoners should mildly dampen commoner progression to self-interest.  The main damping factor though, is probably commoner's own norm enforcement. People have exquisite freeloading detection heuristics concerning those who dip their feet in the world of freeloading. 

Of course some people can cover themselves better than others. What you therefore get is case specific instances of self-interest covered by superficial adherence to group morals (one form of case 3).  In the freeloading world, self-delusion is a strong evolutionary strategy (e.g. the insurance company expects me to inflate my claim a bit, hence the deductible.)  As freeloading by an individual accrues, observations suggest there's a commensurate switch from exception-based altruism to a disguised self-interest.  Basically, individuals cut off moral guilt and the risks of its ingrained tells by fully rationalizing strong self-interest. 

A quick commoner phase change from altruism (case 1) to self-interest (case 2) largely skipping heterogeneity (case 3) is also possible.  This is probably reflective of a collapse into anarchy via rapid norm enforcement swamping.

Case 2
Case 2 just seems unstable.  Common sense suggests that self-interested commoners should, generally, have a low probability of stabilizing at mid-corruption levels without some pressure or strong selective force for altruism.  Moderate corruption and self-interest prime moves to high "corruption".  Indeed, our whole discussion started off with Wilson's findings that morals stabilize around transactional altruism or pure self-interest.  Case 2 is, according to Wilson's findings, empirically unstable.

However, we can't rule out the potential case where a strong rule of law (and effective technocratic legal system) might keep case 2 (commoner self-interest & mid corruption) devolving to destruction.  It just seems likely that, over time, coordinators would game themselves into a commensurate level of corruption (case 5).  We'll touch on this weak argument a bit more later.  Right now, we'll assume (with weak support) that case 2 will likely devolve into case 5.

Case 3
What all this suggests is that the likely scenario with respect to low coordinator corruption is stabilization at case 3 (mixed commoner morals) via the emergence of pockets of altruistic commoners and pockets of self-interested commoners (remember the literature I cited on polarized landscapes...). High rates of corruption quickly lead to catastrophe, but, some corruption is required to enable large group size.  

Another alternative is for coordinator prestige bias to dominate commoner's shift to self-interested morals.  In this case, prestige bias dominates over the strength of within-group competition.  Commoners don't cheat because they see successful coordinators acting altruistically and mimic that supposedly fitness enhancing behaviour.  This would lead to a case 1 end state.  (I have my doubts though, that such a case is stable in a non-self selected group of a large size without high religious-like dynamics.).  Or, if tensions just balance, case 3 stability.  

If case 3 balances, equal tension with between-group selection and within-group selection should produce complex cycling.  See Okasha here.


  • Case 1 stable if prestige bias + norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence) > within group selection for self interest
  • Case 2 unstable
  • Case 3 stable

Cases 4-6: High coordinator corruption
Coordinators increase their corruption levels by quickly jumping past mid level corruption to high level corruption.  This gets them past the Malthusian trap induced by moderate corruption's large-group enabling tendencies.  

Because coordinator numbers have to be much less than commoner numbers, population crises are a destructive constraint.  Only high or low corruption levels (or low birth rates and no immigration) enable low coordinator numbers.  Thus, over long periods of time, one would expect to see selection for rapid coordinator phase changes.  Those that don't change rapidly enough exceed coordinator carrying capacity and, if Peter Turchin's structural-demographic theory is right, this precipitates total societal collapse.  

The degree to which selection for such rapid phase changes has historically  happened is, of course, completely uncertain.  Continual societal collapses ala Turchin's elite overproduction evidence suggests phase change rates are too slow.  But the durability of larger-than-tribe groups suggest the things are not ubiquitously catastrophic.  However, such speculative will have to remain tangential.
One thing that is certain though is that in two group scenarios, high corruption levels among coordinators need not be as destructive as that predicted by single group models: coordinators can after all, parasitically freeload off commoners.

So general discussion on case 4-6 leaves us with the following conclusions:

  • case 4-6 commoners are more (prestige) biased toward corruption than case 1-3 commoners
  • coordinator phase changes from altruism to self-interest should be rapid (but this is certainly not definitive).

Case Analysis
Now, let's look at how cultural transmission affects cases 4-6 (self-interested coordinators).  

We've already discussed many of the dynamics around commoner moral progression.  The main difference between cases 1-3 and 4-6 is that in cases 4-6, coordinator prestige*** bias pushes commoners to self-interest rather than away from it.  

This basically suggests that either case 4 (the doppleganger of case 1's altruistic commoners) is unstable, or that commoner norm enforcement is strong enough to dominate over both coordinator prestige bias and within-commoner-group selection for self-interest.
  • Case 4 stable if norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence) > within group selection for self interest + prestige bias
This is certainly possible.  Conflict between commoners and coordinators is likely (they have opposite morals).  Unless, of course, something like 'different rules for different' groups can justify the all-but-inevitable coordinator freeloading.  Without such de-escalating mechanism, another possibility is commoners pushing coordinators into a case 1 (coordinator altruism) mode.

What's more likely in case 4 though, is that coordinator prestige bias plus within-group selection for self-interest dominate norm enforcement stability.  Noise in these values facilitate temporary periods of norm enforcement weakness.  Pockets of self-interest creep-in, and a case 6 scenario emerges (self-interested coordinators and mixed commoners).

Case 5 just seems inherently unstable.  The combination of highly corrupt, self-interested coordinators prestige biasing self-interested moderately corrupt commoners spells doom for group stability.  Commoners should quickly change to high corruption levels lowering the group carrying capacity.  Fully self-interested groups are unfit in between-group competition with altruists.

Case 6 suffers from 3rd "world-itis".  Coordinators are corrupt. Pockets of commoners are corrupt.  Top-down change is unlikely.  Individual commoner survival is likely based upon alliance with strong-man coordinators or strong sub-groups. Between-commoner selection is likely a strong factor.  To get out of the likely evolution to case 5's implosion, between-commoner selection must favor altruists.  If not, bias from coordinators all but ensures case 6 turns into case 5 and then implodes.


  • Case 4 stable if norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence) > within group selection for self interest + prestige bias.  This is unlikely.
  • Case 5 is unstable
  • Case 6 is unstable unless between-commoner selection favours altruistic commoner sub-groups.  Empirical evidence of human groups suggests selection favouring altruistic sub-groups is likely.

End States
All this means we only have four cases to look at for possible end-behaviour.  

  • Case 1, if commoner norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence) + coordinator to commerer prestige bias > within-commoner-group selection for self interest
  • Case 3 which is stable
  • Case 4, if commoner norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence) > within group selection for self interest + coordinator to commoner prestige bias
  • Case 6, if between-commoner selection favours altruistic commoner sub-groups over self-interested commoner sub-groups

Case Analogies
At this point we might as well see what value we've gotten for all this work.  The methodology of agent based simulations indicates outcomes must be rigorously filtered for empirical coherence before you start probing implications.  We might as well do the same...

Case 1
Case 1 captures the scenario where coordinators are less corrupt than commoners.  This mimics conditions of moral meritocracies.  Interestingly enough, religions are usually moral meritocracies.  There are lots of stable religions.  Of course, not many of them have to run countries.  Therefore we really can't know how stable religions are in the between-group selection world of nation state competition.  Self-selection into the religion and self-selection out of the religion enable a level of purity probably not attainable in nation states.  (Of course, nation states could just expel freeloaders, but that creates another set of group dynamic headaches.)

Case 3
Case 3 may capture the scenario where altruistic leaders are trying to lift their citizenry up to higher levels of altruism.  I suspect historic periods of this dynamic have been at least partially responsible for human evolution to ever-higher levels of selection.  The problem with this, which we'll explore in more depth later, is that long periods of altruistic coordinators in environments of mixed moral commoners is unlikely.  Cancerous coordinator self-interest is hard to resist.

Case 4
Case 4 seems to be the modern re-interpretation of feudalism: honest peasants are abused by a self-interested nobility.  Again the obvious problem with case 4 is why would peasants put up with this?  You'd expect pockets of self-interest to develop.  Or, you'd expect conflict between commoners and coordinators to come to a head.

Case 6
Case 6 seems most similar to pessimistic perspectives of modern society: Commoners are a mixed bunch and coordinators see how far they can stretch their own self-interest.  3rd world manifestations of this state likely have weak technocratic enforcement mechanisms.  1st world manifestations of this state likely have strong technocratic enforcement mechanisms.  The presence of a rule-of-law Big Brother or equivalent quasi-religious Big Brother is key for case 6 stabilization.  1st world countries tend to rely on rule-of-law.  3rd world countries tend to rely on religious or quasi-religious (e.g. tribal culture) Big Brothers.

We've now shown that each end-case meets a minimum standard for potential reality.  We'll now analyze our four cases using two different methods: 1) suppositions of long term change paths, 2) behavioural differentiation costs.

Change Path Analysis
As already mentioned, our cases do not allow the possibility of mixed moral coordinators.  This was due to size considerations (Large groups are only possible with moderate corruption.  Small groups are only possible with low or high corruption.)

However, altruistic homogeneity is unstable.  Technically the instability occurs in instances of within-group selection.  If there is a non-zero chance of spawning a self-interested actor who can game norm-enforcement mechanism, then self-interest should expand cancerously (undetected one-off freeloading always has high relative fitness).  We can of course, assume within-coordinator norm enforcement can dampen this.  However, with two groups can within-coordinator norm enforcement dampen coordinators who may freeload off the commoner group?

I suspect the chances are low (or at least lower than within coordinator norm enforcement).  After all, there is little immediate benefit from such action.  Norm enforcement has costs.  As separation from the other group increases, personal norm-enforcement pay off decreases.  Another way of saying this is that the "leakiness" of norm-enforcement is proportional to the distinctness / differentiability between groups.  This suggests self-interested co-ordinators are probable because they can parasitically freeload off another group.  But let's look at each case in more detail rather than jumping to a rather large conclusion.

As a reminder, the cases we're dealing with are

  • Case 1, 3, 4, 6

We'll start at each case and just like in soft-sociology we'll uncritically predict each case's change path.  In lieu of rehashing all the old supporting arguments, I'll keep things brief.

Case 1 Change Path
Undetected self-interest is very advantageous in homogenous groups of altruists.  Thus, I'd personally predict an evolution from

  • case 1 (coordinator = altruist, commoner = altruist) to 
  • case 4 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = altruist) which leads to 
  • case 6 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = mixed)

Case 3 Change Path
Same reasoning as case 1

  • case 3 (coordinator = altruist, commoner = mixed) to 
  • case 6 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = mixed) 
Case 4 Change Path
Due to prestige bias and commoner self-preservation
  • case 4 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = altruist) to 
  • case 6 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = mixed) 
Case 6 Change Path

While case 6 seems stable, the most likely change path is to case 5: implosion.

There is also non-zero probability of miraculously flipping to a case 3 scenario (coordinator = altruist, commoner = mixed).  There is also a non-zero probability of moving to case 4 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner =altruist).  Although, this latter move seems very unstable.

Case 6 (coordinator = self-interest, commoner = mixed) is a natural well.  This is both intestesting and problematic because case 6's most probably change path is to case 5: implosion!

Other change paths are certainly possible.  For example it is entirely possible for environmental conditions to favour a move against the entropy of self-interest.  Indeed that's a fundamental tenet of multi-level selection which suggests between-group selection balances within-group selection (despite naive 1970's thinking otherwise...).

While I won't make the case for it in this blog post, I suspect we'd see complex cycling around case 6: there would be fluttering between case 3, 4 and 5.

We've also discussed how the following factors can stabilize our cases:
  • commoner norm enforcement (& quasi-religious coherence),
  • within group selection for self interest,
  • coordinator to commoner prestige bias,

Behavioural Differentiation Analysis
We've mentioned how between group distance (specifically differentiability / distinctness) is (inversely) proportional to norm-enforcement leakage.  Norm-enforcement leakage is often fitness enhancing if you're successfully transitioning to a higher level of selection (aka becoming a super-group).  Norm enforcement leakage is often fitness decreasing if you're moving away from a higher level of selection (aka tribalizing).  

Norm enforcement has costs.  Detection costs and false-positive false-negative frequencies are higher between dis-similar individuals than between similar individuals.  Let's call this idea of distance / differentiability / distinctness, 'behavioural differentiation'.

This gives us two components

  • behavioural differentiation
  • moral similarity

We'll make a liberal assumption that mixed morals don't result in necessarily distinguishable behaviors. 

We'll also devise some assumptions about norm enforcement costs.

  1. distinguishable behavioural signals with similar morals will have minimal norm enforcement costs. (low x low = low)
  2. distinguishable behavioural signals with different morals will have moderate norm enforcement costs.  (low x high = moderate)
  3. non-distinguishable (similar) behavioural signals and similar morals will have moderate norm enforcement costs. (high x low = moderate)
  4. non-distinguishable (similar) behavioural signals and different morals will have high norm enforcement costs.  (high x high = high)
Here's the reasoning.  Distinguishable behavioural signals make it easy to determine who's in your group and who's not.  This lowers the cost of norm enforcement.  You're erring in trying to norm enforce people outside of your immediate group.  Similarly, identical moralities lower norm-enforcement costs.  This is because of better insight into your own type of morals.  

You get the following table (which explores the situations where behaviour is and is not distinct/distinguishable).

But now we have to multiply by the enforcement costs of altruism or self-interest.  Self-interest will have lower norm-enforcement costs because when everyone is expected to go their own way, there are fewer norms to enforce.  Mixed states will have the highest norm enforcement costs.

We'll use the following math for multiplicative norm cost enforcement (the first term)
  • low x altruism = 1 x 2 = 2
  • low x altruist self interest mix = 1 x 3 = 3
  • low x self-interest = 1 x 1 = 1
  • moderate x altruism = 2 x 2 = 4 
  • moderate x altruist self interest mix = 2 x 3 = 6 
  • moderation x self-interest = 2 x 1 = 2 
  • high x altruism = 3 x 3 = 9
  • high x altruist self interest mix = 3 x 3 = 9
  • high x self-interest = 3 x 1 = 3

Our table now looks like this.  Of particular interest is that behavioural distinguishability greatly reduces the norm enforcement costs for both commoners and coordinators in every case.  Of course, this is an artifact of our a priori assumptions to the same....  Nonetheless, its interesting to see what type of landscape this produces.

Case 1  has the lowest net norm enforcement costs (for both the distinguishable and non-distinguishable scenarios).  Case 6 also has low net norm enforcement costs.  If norm enforcement costs are the prime concern, then coordinators should favour case 6 with distinguishable behaviours.  Commoners should favour case 1 with distinguishable behaviours.

Last Filter
The last filter to apply is migration.  As mentioned before, coordinators are expected to be sensitive to immigration.  Thus, distinguishable behaviours and distinct moralities should be favoured (they increase migration costs).

This favours case 4****, which we're labelling (extremely loosely) feudalism.  Not far behind are case 3, benevolent builders and case 6, modern society.

Case 3's trajectory results in gradual increases to coordinator immigration.  This happens as commoners become more altruistic like their coordinators.  This lowers emigration costs (commoner to coordinator) because of the similarity rule.  Altruists immigrating into a group of altruists is minimally problematic.  Altruism is weakly subject to within-group competitive factors.

Case 6's trajectory (the most probable of which is to case 5 - dual self-interest) is also towards similarity. Commoners are becoming more self-interested like their coordinators.  This is problematic.  It increases within group competition.  Self interest is strongly subject to within-group competitive factors.

Additionally, some recent research shows that people in power tend to be prejudiced towards those not in power.  Coordinators should be biased against commoners.  This increases the chance that coordinator freeloading is directed at commoners rather than their own group.

So far this post has covered a lot of ground  made a lot of assumptions and relied on more speculatory hand waving than is healthy.  Luckily personal academic blogs are about teasing out improbable ideas to see what sticks.  So far, here are this journey's highlights:

  1. Group morals stabilize around either altruism or self-interest.  Mixed states don't seem empirically stable unless they occur via within-group pockets.
  2. Function at a higher level of selection requires the minimization of lower level conflict.  Thus stable societies have ways of minimizing conflict between its constituent groups.
  3. Coordinating roles are essential in large groups.
  4. Large groups are facilitating by moderate amounts of corruption.  But too much corruption quickly decreases group size.
  5. While lots of variables should be explored to game coordinator-commoner Nash equilibria, a feasible approach requires reduction down to 1st order terms. These seem to be corruption and moral orientation.  This widdles the solution space down from more than 8! cases for a full problem down to 6.
  6. Potentially stable states are
    1. case 1: a moral meritocracy. 
    2. case 3, which is a temporarily stable situation of benevolent coordinators lifting up their corrupt commoners (temporality is due to random noise).
    3. case 4: something like feudalism where too-good-to-be true altruistic commoners put up with coordinator parasitism.
    4. case 6: 3rd world societies or pessimistic views of modern 1st world societies.  Rule-of-law or strong moral-big-brothers maintain societal coherence.
  7. Case 6: modern society is a landscape well.  However, entropy favours decomposition to societal implosion (case 5) as within-group competition (which favours self-interest) outcompetes between-group competition (which favours altruists).  
  8. Case 4 feudalism is favoured by coordinators on immigration grounds.  

So now we've reached our final theoretical destination.  The most robust solution is

  • different behavioural norms and moral orientations between commoners and coordinators
  • commoners who have pockets of altruism and self-interest and coordinators who are self-interested and direct their freeloading to the commoner group.
If this is really a stable solution, we should expect to see multiple repetitions of its emergence across societies.  We do.  If it is stable, one should also look for social structures which facilitate this differentiation.  I'd propose that education is such a vehicle.

Vehicles stabilizing the case 6 well (coordinator = self interest, commoner = mixed) should:

  1. focus coordinator self-interest on commoners
  2. rationalize this behaviour in a way that is maximally convincing for commoner
  3. minimize coordinator self-interest against their own group
  4. minimize immigration of commoners into the coordinator group
  5. foster distinguishability between coordinators and commoners
  6. favour altruism amongst commoners
  7. maintain a coordinator knowledge base of know how to direct/coordinate commoner effort.

There are probably an infinite number of solutions to this problem.  Thus we should take any "just-so" solution with a very big grain of salt.  Just-so solutions do not show that a solution will happen.  It only shows that a solution is not implausible.  Thus the highest degree of certainty we can get for the following educational argument is 'not implausible'.  This is a pretty low bar! (And one that precludes using these results for anything.)

We'll have to deal with two cases here.  One situation is where each group has the opportunity to create their own vehicle to preserve their desired stabilization.  Tension between the case favoured by each group leads to case 6 stabilization.  The other situation is where both groups rely on the same vehicle.

Different Vehicles
Again, our analysis suggests commoners are likely to favour a mixed states for themselves (case 3 or case 6).   Case 3  (coordinator = altruistic, commoner = mixed) is obviously better than case 6 (coordinator = self interest, commoner = mixed).

Pluralism enables a mixed state.  Social equity pulls back the between-group competition which occurs within pluralism. So commoners solution is to facilitate pluralism but to do so in a way to values altruism and equity.  Wilson's classical religious morals do this (as would the equivalent secular and non-supernatural alternatives).

Coordinators are likely to favour self-interest directed at commoners (case 4) in a way that is minimally antagonistic to commoners.  The obvious solution to this is to convince commoners that coordination requires a certain level of graft.  Education should also re-enforce the impossibility of commoners fulfilling coordinator roles.  Aristocratic priest craft seems like a good solution here.  I'd expect oblique transmission from priest to laity with unnecessary opaque and symbolically heavy messaging focussed on the value of individual sacrifice and group unity.  Again, Wilson's classical religious morals seem to do this.  The only caveat would be some additional messaging enabling co-ordinators to rationalize graft: something like "prosperity theology" works.

Common Vehicle
As already mentioned, the aggregate solution for commoners and coordinators is case 6.  The challenge with a single common vehicle is having a single message that is interpreted in different ways.  This speaks to a hidden curriculum.

Imagine a single educational system that encourages altruism and equity.  But in practice its benefits are differentiated by socially opaque norms and threshold dependent benefits.  Those with the social background and opportunities to benefit do so really well.  Those who don't pass this threshold are entrenched into thinking they can't function as coordinators and that there is something they just can't "get" about that world.  It should also encourage cliquishness while maintaining a sense of nationalism.

Capitalism, the "American Dream", and high-standards public education are one of many possible intersecting solutions.  Public charter schools which function as de facto class purifiers would also be part of a strong intersectional solution.  This gives the appearance of openness while masking fundamental closed-off specialization.

A necessary condition of the common vehicle education would be a focus on understanding commoners and commoner dynamics.  Central to this would be assurances that the right class of people emerge as normative achievement champions.  Thus the "right" type of answers endemic to a coordinator world-view would valued by the system.  Trump-like blue-collar logic and pragmatics would be ridiculed and portrayed as destructive: after all, while understood by commoners it is not readily understood by elite.

We spent an inordinate amount of time flushing out arguments for a socially heterogeneous society composed of two morally homogeneous sub-groups.  We broadened the scope of Wilson's binary moral findings to include the possibility of mixed commoner morals.  What we found was that self-interested coordinators and mixed morality commoners is a solution well.  Evolution of this state (case 6) into complete self-interested implosion (case 5) must be mediated by some factors.

Technocracy in the form of rule-of-law or Big Brother based religion (or quasi-religion) is one potential stabilizer.  Education is another potential stabilizer.  Distinguishability between sub-groups lowers norm enforcement costs.  It also minimizes conflict between sub-groups.  Role specialization (real or hyperbolized), dependencies, and group-specific moralities further minimize competition.

Education can either be niche oriented to the needs / interests of each group, or it can be generalized for both groups.  Niche specific education is well served by liturgeous symbolically opaque coordinator (elite) education.  This increases migration costs into coordinator classes and entrenches distinguishability of the classes.  Niche specific education is well served by altruistically oriented practices for commoners.  This opposes natural pressure to ever-increasing levels of commoner self-interest which is destructive in the between-group selection world with other societies.

Common education is well served by an elite focussed education that encourages altruism and equity, but which in practice has a high bar usually only passed by those with the right type of culture.  This gives the appearance of equity while masking the ordinal race to ensure coordinators always come out on top.

*In another post, I'll expand on the mixed group case.  This involves the scenario where some parts of a larger society are classically religious (favouring altruism) while other parts are Randianly selfish (favouring pure self-interest).  This mixed state neatly balances in-group stability (just enough altruists) with out-group stability (nice combination of proselytization for altruists by some while others predatorily {or commensalatorily} exploit those outside the group)

**Distinguishing between conversion and migration is fairly arbitrary.  From here on out I'll assume, at our level of precision (non-individual specific), that the two events are interchangeable.

***Prestige bias isn't the only vehicle for cultural transmission.  Seemingly irrelevant transmission types for our scenarios are oblique (1 to many), vertical (parents to children) and horizontal (social) transmission. Seemingly relevant transmission types are guided variation and content bias.

Guided variation is characterized by individuals seeing something interesting and then modifying it.  Sometimes this increases utility.  Sometimes it refines it.  Content bias is characterized by the intrinsic attractiveness of something affecting its adoption frequency.

Both these forms of cultural transmission weigh the self-interest transmission vs. norm enforcement balance toward self-interest (at least in cased 4-6, in cases 1-3 it weights the other direction).
There's also some interesting support for the evolution selection for high status.  Higher status individuals have lower mortality than low status individuals.

**** Case 2 is also favoured on the sole basis of co-ordinator migration concerns.  However, it didn't pass initial filtering speculation.