The Price Is Wrong

Author’s Note: This is highly redundant with Culture, Complexity & Code2


“Society is facing a new and unprecedented challengeresponding to its own overwhelming complexity. The structure of our society must change.”  Yaneer Bar-Yam

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Collected, High-Density Knowledge Dots; Selected

“The most fundamental phenomenon of the universe is relationship.” — Jonas Salk Anatomy of Reality 1983

Information: “Here's the best definition of information that I know of: information is a measure of uncertainty reduced.” Jay Rosen

Reality Distillation, Noun (description, noun chunk re what reality is):

Information-in-Relationship; structured variantly:

Rock, Gene, Cell, Tribe, Atom, Religion, Nation, River, Sky, Poem, Algorithm, Code, Galaxy.

Reality Distillation, Verb (description, verb chunk re what reality does):

Information Processing:

“Any final state contains information about the system’s initial state and about what has happened to it since. So, the motion of any physical system, because it obeys definite laws, can be regarded as information processing.” physicist David Deutsch

Motion: Information Processing.

(Veritable Wowness.)

Survival / Passing Natural Selection Tests: A function of processing relationship information with sufficient reach, speed, accuracy and power.

Code: “The story of human intelligence starts with a universe that is capable of encoding information.”  Ray Kurzweil – How to Create a Mind

Code: Distilled, collapsed, uncertainty reduced  Relationship Infrastructure in biological, cultural and technological networks: genetic, language (sound patterned, signed, alphabet coded, etc.), math, moral, religious, legal, monetary, etiquette, software, etc.

Code reduces the number of possibilities of relationship interaction, and sometimes, precisely specifies relationship interaction.

Code: Physics efficacious information technology, builds / organizes hierarchies, structures of relationship information.

Code: Relationship scaffolding, a constructor mechanism integral to the generation of aggregate structures of information-in-relationship: trees, religions, nations, books, computer applications, etc.

Coding Structure: Functions as an app for processing relationship information.

For example, religion is a coding structure originally created by hunter-gatherers. Religion is an app. Funeral, wedding, sacrifice, infidels? Cue the religious app, a set of codes that delineate relationship how-to, how to structure / navigate / process wedding relationship information. Bad hunts, floods, disease, sadness? Cue the religious app to access the spirits for an explanation and amelioration of said events.

(Adhering to a consistent pattern in evolution – integration – variations of Spirits Inc. became amalgamated over time, often by way of hostile takeovers. The emergent variation became the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent app: god.)

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The New Natural Selection Tests

Natural selection tests have become more complex for many species. Genetic codes remain on the exam; human culture codes have been added. For example, elephant and dolphin survival are no longer merely a function of their biological genomes, but also a function of the human cultural genome, that is, of moral, legal, monetary and other coding structures.

Dots Connect Re World Culture’s Interface with Reality:

If your culture’s relationships with the sky and ocean are deadly, your cultural genome sucks. That is, it’s non-selectable.


“I define complexity as having more parts and more functional relationships between those parts.” Raymond NeubauerEvolution and the Emergent Self

Recent and vast additions to geo eco bio cultural & tech networks have increased relationship complexity exponentially (add roughly 5.5 billion humans since 1916, many wielding immensely more powerful technology). These additions generate myriad new and disruptive relationships in-and-across networks, and across time – many positive, many negative, many unknown, many yet to manifest.

Two Dots re Our Era’s Complexity:

“There were 5 exabytes of information created by the entire world between the dawn of civilization and 2003; now that same amount is created every two days.”  

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO

“It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.” 

Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod

Dot Connect:

Exponentially accelerating complexity has crippled world culture’s ability to adhere to this fundamental survival tenet:

“The rule of thumb is that the complexity of the organism has to match the complexity of the environment at all scales in order to increase the likelihood of survival.”

Making Things Work -- Physicist / Complexity Scientist Yaneer Bar-Yam

We can’t process these levels of complexity, biologically or culturally.

Our biological and cultural relationship infrastructure has been overwhelmed by complexity. That is, complexity has out paced the information processing reach, speed, accuracy and power of both our biological and cultural coding.

Self-Organized Criticality

Self-organized criticality is when-not-if physics that describes large-events. Periodically, some systems’ components become self-aligned, poised for a large event. This phenomenon is a relatively rare but repeating part of reality. It manifests in various non-equilibrium systems (systems in constant flux). Some of these repeating large events are: meteor hits, world wars, famines, disease outbreaks, floods, genocides, abrupt climate changes, mass extinctions, market crashes, etc.


Sometimes non-equilibrium systems – food supply, tectonic, immune, climate, political, economic – become critical-state aligned; and BAM, the domino architecture yields a rapid and large-scale network restructuring: a German, Rwandan or Cambodian genocide; a tsunami; a potato famine; an influenza outbreak.

Large events are part of the physics repertoire of non-equilibrium systems.

Important Caveat Dot

Sufficient implemented knowledge can override self-organized criticality; e.g., arm a rocket with explosives to alter the trajectory of a meteor; create a vaccine to counter an epidemic, etc.

Dot Connect:

World civilization doesn’t have sufficient implemented knowledge to survive in the ever-new environs generated by our exponential expansion, a significant part being our complexity-inadequate coding infrastructure, that is, our weak cultural genome.

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Biological Structures’ Relationship Interactions (motions) Are Coded For

Let’s go to a particular aggregate information-in-relationship structure – the human body – a noun that verbs, that processes complex, dynamic relationships with codes that have been selected as infrastructure for those relationships over time.

Let’s say you’re making your way to the beach in flip-flops, eyes on your phone. You attempt to duck under a rusted metal bar in your path. You miscalculate and bang your head slightly on the bar. You receive a minor cut. Reacting to the head bump throws you off balance and you scrape the front of your big toe on the asphalt. (You quickly emit a few choice sound patterns that code for / distill / collapse anger and frustration.)

You’re annoyed, but not worried because you know: from the top of your head to the tip of your big toe, your body continuously patrols and monitors relationships. Sensors are ubiquitous and integrated. These system-wide sensors report skin breeches. Skin breech information is noted, sent, received and processed. Repair mechanisms for your newly generated skin relationships are initiated.

To augment your body’s immune response (information processing), you’ve recently added a specific information processing structure: a tetanus vaccine.

You’ve added a noun-that-verbs to your body for better verbing; you’ve forestalled personal self-organized criticality in the form of tetanus by adding accrued human knowledge to your body.

Dot Connect: Complexity Increases Weaken the Efficacy of Code

Gains in our numbers and technological prowess not only yield exponential numbers of new relationships, they reduce the effectiveness of the current relationship infrastructure – the coding.

For example, think of the dysfunction of many old codes were they applied in today’s more complex environs: 1288, 1588 & 1888 legal codes; hunter-gatherer and many current religious codes; 1998 software codes; 1088 English language codes.

Code Speciation & Extinction

The transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to cities generated new and more complex relationships that required new code. Here are a few new code exhortations from the Middle Ages, that is, here’s some speciation of relationship infrastructure in the form of a then-new coding structure: etiquette.

Don’t foul the staircases, corridors, closets, or wall hangings with urine or other filth. * Don’t relieve yourself in front of ladies, or before doors or windows of court chambers. * Don’t slide back and forth on your chair as if you’re trying to pass gas. * Don’t touch your private parts under your clothes with your bare hands. * Don’t greet someone while they are urinating or defecating. * Don’t make noise when you pass gas. * Don’t undo your clothes in front of other people in preparation for defecating, or do them up afterwards. * When you share a bed at an inn, don’t lie so close to him that you touch him, and don’t put your legs between his. * If you come across something disgusting in the sheet, don’t turn to your companion and point it out to him, or hold up the stinking thing for the other to smell and say ‘I should like to know if this stinks.’”

Steven Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature

(I’m glad those codes were invented. I prefer the collapsed parameters for relationship interaction, the reduction of uncertainty that these codes impart, distill.)

Codes, like suns, live and die. Imagine how these once-acceptable behaviors cited by Dr. Pinker would play out with our current set of culture codes:

“In the European Middle Ages, sexual activity too was less discreet. People were publicly naked more often, and couples took only perfunctory measures to keep their coitus private. Prostitutes offered their services openly; in many English towns, the red-light district was called Gropecunt Lane. Men would discuss their sexual exploits with their children . . .”

Dot Connect re Current Cultural Codes:

All networks have had new structures of information-in-relationship added to them, largely in the form of people & technology, as well as their significant emissions and waste. These additions have – rapidly and drastically – altered our environs. But we’re using archaic codes / coding structures for culture’s interface with these new environs.

Complexity has decimated the efficacy of our current cultural coding. Our cultural genome is weak. It can’t generate functional relationships with the sky and ocean. It lacks reach. It doesn’t monitor and immediately report breeches to sky and ocean, nor implement repairs to said breeches. Our cultural genome violates the survival rule of thumb cited above by Dr. Bar-Yam: it doesn’t match the unprecedented complexity of its environs.

The efficacy of world culture's dominant information processing mechanism for the computation / calibration of relationship-value information, for the ordering of selectable relationship hierarchies – humans using monetary code – has been crushed by complexity. Humans using this thousands-of-years-old cultural coding mechanism can't process relationship-value information in-and-across geo eco bio cultural & tech networks, and importantly, across time, with sufficient reach, with sufficient speed, accuracy & power.

Humans use monetary code to price the relationship-value of the sky today, with significant impact for our children, 30, 50, 300 years from now. How’s that working out? We’ve loaded the relationship dice for an episode of self-organized criticality in the form of abrupt climate change.

In our unprecedentedly complex environs that continue to complexify exponentially, the idea that human beings using monetary code could possibly generate selectable relationship hierarchies across the networks and time, c’mon man.

We literally can’t compute sky, ocean and other complex relationship information using dinosaurian culture code. The computation required exceeds the abilities of our current biological and cultural genomes. In other alphabet code: Our pricing of complex relationships is so wrong, so weak, it’s lethal.

The margins of selection are tight, impersonal and brutally enforced.

(Is it already too late for our children to avoid a mass die-off and possible extinction? I don’t know, seems to be our reality. So this is? Likely just something to do in the interim.

Zappa & Vertosick already told me ...)

At these levels of complexity, we don’t know what will work (if anything). So why not consciously align with the reality of complex systems: Variation; Interaction; Selection; Repeat. Like an immune system encountering an unknown pathogen, we generate multiple response variations, review the interactions, select the response/s, repeat.

Here’s a triage-time response variation for a coulda-shoulda-woulda world: We follow historic precedent.

Once upon a time, information processing yielded accrued knowledge dots that were hooked up to form a new food procurement app (tech) – agriculture. This knowledge helped birth a new structure of information-in-relationship: aggregated culture. To process the more complex relationships of cities, we added whole new coding structures to the primitive (less complex) cultural genome of hunter-gatherers.

In the grand and profound transition from simple hunter-gatherer social structures of say 50 people, to the exponentially more complex information-in-relationship architecture of social structures populated with 100,00 people, creative information processors invented alphabet, legal, etiquette and monetary coding structures.

The new coding structures – innovative information-processing technologies for culture, culture apps – augmented our ability to process the increased informational content of culture.

These revolutionary coding structures were fundamental for building civilization. They were used in the construction of political states, constitutions, courts, banks, books, government institutions and policies, etc. The new coding structures also added a degree of homeostasis for culture. For example, legal code and its enforcement resemble, in part, an immune system, checking at least some cultural pathogens at the gate, mitigating others, and yes, sometimes censoring or impeding creative variation.

Dot Connect: Digital Neocortex

For survival, that is, for sufficient information processing of our increasingly complex world, we add new coding structures to our cultural genome. We create a global coding structure that attempts to match the complexity generated by our unprecedented additions to networks. We create a technological genome. We build a digital neocortex for culture (to steal Ray Kurzweil’s alphabet coding). We place sensors and bots in-and-across all networks, sensors that collect big, head-to-toe data dots from the sky, from oceans, rivers, forests, the internet of things, etc. Chunks of that relationship information collection already exist. Satellites, etc.  We can build quantum and other computers that process the relationship data with ever finer resolution. (Recall that already, IBM’s Watson can read 800 million pages a second.) A neocortex for culture is analogous to an immune system for the earth in that it constantly patrols and monitors the relationships of earth’s various networks.

In his brilliant work, The Beginning of Infinity, physicist David Deutsch cites is the vital importance of rapid error detection and error correction. Our current cultural genome sucks at this. A digital neocortex for culture uses software code. With regard to rapid error detection and error correction, software code can be much more facile and precise than weak information processors (politicians) writing legal code corrupted by monetary code.

Passing our natural selection tests requires the processing of complex relationship-value information with sufficient reach, sufficient speed, accuracy and power. The demands of survival, of computation in our ever-new, ever-more complex environs requires significant evolution of our cultural genome, a major portion being: software code replaces monetary code.

Software code is to monetary code as alphabet code was to pictograph code.

Dots; Endless Dots:

“The truth is rarely in the middle.” Joscha Bach

“The known is never sufficient for life.” Wulf Zendik

Postscript: Other species on Economics:

Looking at the multitude of human bodies to feast on, the bacterium asked a friend,

"What the hell happened here?"

"They tried to do natural selection with monetary code."