Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beginnings: Toward an Open Source Map of Human Nature

UPDATE 2/27/15: Second set of links added.

What we are doing isn’t working, we’re all in this together, and we are running out of time.

Let me try to explain, as simply as possible, what is going on.

Executive Summary: Our self-inflicted societal problems arise not from having "the wrong people" in power, but from the interplay of universal, self-evident human attributes. Problems and solutions alike arise from ways in which we are all fundamentally the same, not different, and that is grounds for cautious optimism.

Four basic human attributes—habitual pattern recognition, analogical thinking, a limited attention span, and a body governed by instincts—are all that are needed to assemble a coherent, accessible explanation for all possible human behavior.

The explanation develops along three broad themes:

I. Habitual pattern recognition, analogical thinking, and limited attention (the first three attributes) make up the shared core of human intelligence, in which rationality figures prominently, but not in the way you think;

II. Intelligence meets instinct (the fourth attribute) at the hinge of identity, giving rise to the complex world of emotions;

III. Our experiences within this elegant dual architecture, while dynamic, are unavoidably constrained by our own attentional limits.

Once woven together, these themes reveal a distinctly human way of generating, experiencing, and reacting emotionally to ideas. This underlying process architecture is the shared basis of all possible human ideologies, regardless of their truth or coherence—we’re all in this together—and it can be comprehensively mapped, yielding deep insight into human affairs.

For example, the map offers a fresh look at age-old political problems. Accumulated power and its corruption lead to snowballing negative effects in any societywhat we are doing isn’t working—but the map unambiguously shows both to be functions of "people" rather than of "the wrong people." The dynamics are human, not ideological, and this has potent implications.

One such implication is a categorical rejection of identity politics. Almost by definition, perennial societal problems arise from shared human attributes rather than ideological differences. If left unchecked—we are running out of time—the darker aspects of that common nature tend to wear societies down or tear them apart, regardless of who is running the show. Singling out scapegoats won’t solve long-term structural problems.

The bottom line, as incredible as it may seem, is that all of this structure—persistent societal problems and their solutions, perpetual tensions between individual and collective, the good and bad aspects of human nature, and even the motivational energy that powers the whole enterprise—all of it emerges whole from a common architecture, which in turn derives from the mappable interplay of just four self-evident human attributes.

The explanation unfolds gradually and in plain language, making it easy to follow, and each stage is summarized into convenient heuristics, or rules of thumb. This is knowledge meant for widespread use.

Application of that explanation has already proven capable of defusing long-standing ideological battles on contact. Broader application, coupled with the newfound appreciation of our common humanity it brings, could be the societal tool we need to transcend "politics as usual" in favor of durable, inclusive, open-ended solutions that can actually work.

We’re all in this together, and this may be an encouraging thought.

To be continued...