Monday, 25 July 2011

Closing the feedback loop


What doomed secular hedonism was the point when it closed the loop (a point which secularism was, intrinsically, bound to reach) - so that it became legitimate to influence feedback, so that it became acceptable to shape outputs as well as - and at the same time as - inputs.


So long as human nature was accepted as a given - then secular hedonism was limited to giving people what they wanted. But when human nature became regarded as a product of culture, it (apparently) became legitimate to change what people wanted, or change people so that they wanted what they already had - or what you were offering them.

Then is madness - a system that is simultaneously gratifying wants, creating wants, obliterating wants and amplifying wants.

How could this kind of system possibly be evaluated? It is merely an elaborate and obfuscated process of self-justification.


Democracy worked reasonably well when it was a matter of recording voters preferences; but when it became possible to change voters preferences and choices, and to change the composition of the voters - then it became insane.

Science worked reasonably well when scientists tried to provide obviously useful breakthroughs; but when it became possible to persuade non-scientists that 'whatever scientists have done' constitutes a breakthrough, and when success in science was to be judged by evaluation systems conducted by successful scientists (viz. peer review) - then we are in the realms of insanity.


When the feedback loop has been closed, then we are in the realms of insanity; with outputs and inputs, claims and counter-claims, whirling and spraying-out centrifugally; with no baseline for evaluation of success or failure.

Temporary states of rest coming only from the coercive imposition of an 'official line' on what has happened, is happening.

Just an endless propaganda war trying to convince people of this or that - with nothing deeper or permanent than whether people - here and now, contingently, irrationally, apparently - acquiesce.



The Crow said...

Modern Man's "purpose":
To Agree.
With everyone.
On everything.

SonofMoses said...

Dear Bruce,
Sometimes your posts seem to sum up exactly what I have myself observed, and then I feel happy to not be the only person on the planet who suspected thus or thus.
At other times they clarify some half-formed, still vague intimation. And then I feel you have helped me understand and express something which until then had been straining unsuccessfully to be born whole.
Then at other times the subject matter or your slant on it seem to hold only limited interest for me, or I feel I know enough about that issue to not need to bother paying that close attention.
Then, like this morning for instance, you come up with a post that seems really intriguing and full of insight, promising to throw light on and reconcile all manner of burning questions and to connect the dots in a way I have been trying to manage for decades, but, as I read on, I find, to be humiliatingly honest, I have only the vaguest idea of what you are talking about!
If you had stooped to giving illustrations, the whole matter would probably become have become crystal clear, but that’s not your way, I know.
So here I am feeling uncomfortably frustrated and in the dark but convinced there is great wisdom being presented concerning matters that mean a great deal to me, but in a form I cannot handle.
Perhaps this is because, as is your right, you are more concerned with formulating your understanding to yourself than making it clear to others. Maybe you leave out connecting steps in the argument because these are so obvious to yourself they don’t seem worth spelling out.
But here I am standing on the outside of the temple of wisdom, disconsolately looking for a key.
To be fair, this could be seen in another way.
Perhaps your stock-in-trade is ‘gnomic sayings’ which means a little extra work from my end, to keep re-reading so that eventually the meaning begins to shine through. This is a valid and time-honoured technique, and when it works the understanding gained tends to be stronger and more long-lasting. Nevertheless, as we become more and more addicted to skimming the endless verbiage now available to us online (and off), your observations become so much more demanding than the average blog.
But soft! Yes, as I re-read it something IS beginning to make sense: so I will stop kvetching and struggle on, knowing that your insights are usually worth the trouble.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SoM - I apologize for this - some of it is, indeed, on principle; but much is also idleness and haste on my part.

The democracy example is perhaps the clearest. Early democracy may have approximated to discovering the will of the voters and doing it.

Then, of course, the voters were bribed into voting for ME - bribed using (say) non-voter's resources.

But now voters are controlled to vote among a range of tightly constrained 'legitimate' (non 'extremist') choices, controlled by the intellectual elite.

And voters are bribed to vote for ME using resources borrowed from other nations, or from the future, or just made-up.

And voters en masse are made dependent on patronage so as to lock-in votes (eg welfare payments, subsidies and tax breaks of many types, affirmative action).

And boundaries are gerrymandered to maximise certain types of results.

And voters are imported en masse (and made dependent by welfare) - so 'the majority' is manipulated (not the wants of this majority, but instead creating a different majority; a different population).

So modern democracy does not give people what it wants, tell them what they want, it bribes them to want stuff, it rigs the system, and recently it has started changing the basic composition of voters.

What started (let's be charitable) a matter of populism - or giving the majority what the majority spontaneously wants (a formalization of the bread and circuses idea) - ends up with what we have now; where most of the effort is expended ensuring that voters vote for/ 'want' what the elite are prepared to give them.

Early democracy can be evaluated in terms of the extent to which it gives people what they want, but late democracy has closed the feedback loop such that it affects what people want at the same time as it purports to satisfy what people want.

And then the whole conception of what the majority 'want' is lost and buried. So the raison de etre of democracy is gone, completely. It is merely a circular system of self-justification.

SonofMoses said...

Thank you, Bruce.

Just a little ‘unpacking’ makes a lot of difference.

Perhaps its even useful for you to do this more deliberately and more often, in training for (any news?) your meteoric rise on the best-sellers list.

Best regards.

Daniel said...

@ The Crow:

I agree!

Matias said...

Carl Schmitt in his "Verfassungslehre" (1928) defined democracy as a system of government that has as its premiss the equality of the voters. Every classical liberal theorist that favored parliamentary democracy understood that the assumption of actual equality in political capabilities did not hold true, but it was taken as a rough estimate of voters' preferences as a whole. But Schmitt noted that as soon as all state power was concentrated on democratic parliaments, democracy turned into a system which has the equality of voters as an object.

So modern democracy is not a system of sharing power between equals (the people), but a system of producing equals from a differentiated, open-ended mass of people.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SoM - I wanted to explain why someone like GK Chesterton was such an advocate of democracy; and why he would *not* be a democrat had been alive today, and seen what it had become once the feedback loop had been closed.

BTW - my forthcoming book will is NOT intended to be, NOR will it be a 'commercial' success (above my hope that it makes enough money for the publishers - University of Bucks. comfotably to cover the costs) NOR will it result in my being known more widely known - at least, not if *I* have anything to do with it!

Brett Stevens said...

It seems to me this is yet another reason why conservatives and Platonists encourage consequentialism, and not attention to human perception/feeling.

With a cause->effect chain of logic, you cannot have a feedback loop.

When both cause and effect originate in human perceptions of events, the problem spirals out of control as you note.

Matias said...

If I may continue my previous comment, I would like to note that 19th century constitutional theory mostly saw the "State" represented by the Monarch and his bureaucratic apparatus. The parliament represented "Society". Advancing secularist ideas in making the State more responsive to input by the parliament might have increased effectiveness in outputs. But only a hereditary institution that could not be justified by secularist rationality guaranteed the functionality of secularist political systems.

Once monarchy had no relevance and the State meant only parliamentary democracy, the loop was closed. Influencing inputs is probably easier that producing the outputs that secular hedonists crave. Whatever is given is the best there is and saying otherwise constitutes "hate speech" nowadays.