Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The year ahead

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As usual these days, I feel generally-worried, pessimistic and hopeful...

When I compare my state of mind with that of my earlier life; one of the biggest differences is related to institutions, to 'civil society' - that layer of organization which comes between the family and the state.

I used to live by the conviction that social institutions (the medical profession, universities, science... law, government, the media) were basically good; and was optimistic that their problems were temporary and would be fixed - but that even at its best life was a matter of finding a pleasant and comfortable niche; and not worrying about what I could not effect and the cosmic pointlessness of it all...

Now I feel the opposite.

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13 comments:

  1. As you said "We have inherited social structures from earlier generations, with social roles dependent upon certain minimal cognitive capacities - but we lack sufficient people with the requisite cognitive capacity to fill these social functions, therefore although people can do their jobs and functions, they do not and cannot understand these functions." now what is the prognosis?

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  2. The prognosis is that things will simplify until they can be understood - things will simplify themselves until they can be understood. And of course this we see all about us.

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  3. I remind you that in the last Dark Ages, Romanised life managed to hang on in Wales and neighbouring parts for a long time; and, more surprisingly, a slightly Romanised life seemed to hang on in southern Scotland for a good while. Romano-British life was also transplanted to NW France. So now you know where to go.

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  4. Dr. Charlton,

    Burckhardt's "terrible simplifiers"?

    "Burckhardt looked with pessimism on the political, social, and historical tendencies of his time, predicting somberly, and correctly as it turned out, the ascendancy of men whom he characterized as the "terrible simplifiers," by which he meant men who by their clever manipulations and vulgar appeals to mob psychology would achieve popular acclaim and, with the approbation of the people themselves, seek to extinguish freedom. "


    http://www.imaginativeconservative.org/2010/08/review-of-jacob-burckhardts-greeks-and.html?m=1

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  5. @d No doubt it was the decadent aspects of Roman life to which the celtic fringes stubbornly clung...

    @j. Even without terrible simplifiers, things will get simpler since the excess complexity (above the level of understandability) cannot be sustained- things will collapse to lower levels of complexity, even if they are not deliberately made less complex. Intellectuals will need to choose between rival simplifications, because the option of complex solutions is a delusion.

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  6. "No doubt it was the decadent aspects of Roman life to which the celtic fringes stubbornly clung": yeah, Christianity and such.

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  7. @d - so long as you don't start on How The Irish Saved Civilization...

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  8. "we lack sufficient people with the requisite cognitive capacity to fill these social functions"

    Is this really true, or is it merely the case that egalitarianism has replaced meritocracy -- with the result that incompetent people have been elevated into these positions?

    The fundamental competence that seems to have been lost in all this is the ability to recognize who is competent and who is not.

    The incompetent demand proofs when they're denied a position, but their very incompetence prevents them from understanding or accepting the explanation.

    Good engineers, for example, can recognize a good piece of engineering when they see it. But poor engineers are blind to the difference, and it's practically impossible to explain it to them. I expect the same is true in other fields.

    So the system defaults to the lowest common denominator and bases its judgments on markers that even the most incompetent can recognize: time in office, academic "credentials", gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.

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  9. @Corky - that's true; but average intelligence has declined as well.

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  10. "so long as you don't start on How The Irish Saved Civilization...":since the bulk of the Romano-Britons leaving for what are now Brittany and Normandy seem to have come from what is now SW England, they left from territory pretty remote from the invading Germans and close to the invading Irish. So I'd say that the Irish did their bit to bring down civilisation. Of course, once the Briton Patrick had elevated them, they did contribute substantially to saving civilisation. Still, the sooner the Book of Kells is returned to Scotland the better.

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  11. I suppose there is some hope in our ability to recognize the problems, and that we still remain (mostly) free to discuss it and to make a choice of avoidance.

    I am worried, as the control continues, this would not be so possible. However your point about failure to maintain complex systems as intelligence decreases, we have sort of an irony - the leftist policies of promoting the less able may be what prevent them from grasping the complexity required to control everything.

    Though there were some complaints about hypocrisy, such as the staff of our current US President doesn't resemble his policies or his electorate (even he chose function over dogma).

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  12. Things may or may not get worse before they get better but we know there will be Joy in the Morning.
    Of course things are very very bad now - but even ancient Judah, with the presence of the Lord in the Temple, could only manage a handful of good kings among the rabble of bad kings from David to the Exile. Absent a revival like none that has ever been known, we should not (unless I am missing something) expect better ...

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  13. "Even without terrible simplifiers, things will get simpler since the excess complexity (above the level of understandability) cannot be sustained- things will collapse to lower levels of complexity, even if they are not deliberately made less complex. Intellectuals will need to choose between rival simplifications, because the option of complex solutions is a delusion."

    Awfully grim, Mr. Charlton. But, I am seeing the same things you are. It's going to be a long 21st century.

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