A couple years ago, when I was absorbing the wit and wisdom of Nutnfancy and developing my Peasant Theory (now mostly complete), I started The Downside Blog. The Downside Blog was kind of a prepperish journal of observing things that fail and processes that might fail in order for its readers to be cognizant of such things ahead of time. It turned out that a couple years ago was not a good time to start a new blog, and quite frankly I didn't have the patience for it. This morning I thought about that subject again. This time I'm considering it in the context of psychology.
Psychology is my daughter's major. I'd like her to consider cognitive science and so I gifted her the most recent book by Dan Ariely, Irrationally Yours. When she decided on that major, I found that I had a lot more to say about psychology than I thought.
What has always intrigued me about cognitive science has to do with the practical aspects of the acceptability of facts embedded in compute systems. If you are seeking an answer to a question and the answer is to be found in a computer, do you accept it? If you are seeking a solution to a problem and that solution lives in a process or institution that is unfamiliar to you, do you accept the agency of that process or institution? Generally, what are the factors that keep people from actually doing what they say they want to do, given the opportunity. You may be familiar with this cartoon which was a favorite amongst the software sales teams I used to hang out with in the late 90s.
As I've mentioned, the reasons for my Peasant Theory were manifold. Chief among them was the idea that when people don't have trust for institutions, democratic and business institutions specifically, they tend towards tribalism. Organizationally, when flat, egalitarian organizations fail, people tend to fall back to hierarchical, authoritarian organizations. While I haven't been very specific about it, I tend to consider global trade and free markets as very flat and egalitarian, given the relative absence of regulatory capture and oligopoly. Also I should say that I have a great deal of confidence that hierarchical organizations don't scale. Towers of Babel fall, while suburbs do not.
In considering the downside of things as I mused this morning, I thought about my friend whose job it is to run companies that have been criminally mismanaged. There's money in that business. As there is money in police and fire work, in soldiering and in disaster relief. There is an upside to the downside and this has been fascinating to me, but not for any perverse reason. In fact, I am rather wary of that tipping point, wondering if in various parts of our society that tipping point has been past, in which it is more profitable to destroy that which is weak than to reform it.
Perhaps it is because I have been outside of the corporate loop in my small business that I sympathize with those who say there's something morally bereft in our leadership class. I wonder if the nation is being financialized when I think about AirBnB more capitalized than Marriott.
I don't have much to recommend for what is becoming of my stoicism this morning. l have plucked my mind from the Matrix and living in truth without wishful thinking has filled me with a kind of sadness in regarding humanity that I cannot describe. I think perhaps that I have turned a melancholy corner that can only be remedied by fun and beauty, both to be found in ritual and discipline. But I think that will only be personal, or intimate at best. I am considering that looking over the horizon that I don't want to remain long in the solutions business. I don't want to profit as Cassandra, no matter how correct I might be. It is only too sad to understand the downside.
Psychologically, I am curious as to how I will deal with this, precisely whether I will let go of the discipline of avoiding wishful thinking and creative solutions in order to be happy. I do not wish to retreat from society. Perhaps there is a spot of zen in my mind I will find in rituals of the body.