Stultum facit fortuna

Whom fortune wishes to destroy, she first makes mad.

Consensus leads to the madness of crowds, not the wisdom of crowds.  As we move to a government ruled by consensus, and intrusively pervading every aspect of society with its power, madness and evil prevails.

The wisdom of crowds happens when you collect people’s guesses or estimates for some fact, without them consulting each other, without them forming consensus first.

The opening anecdote of the book “The wisdom of crowds” relates Francis Galton’s surprise that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged (the average was closer to the ox’s true butchered weight than the estimates of most crowd members, and also closer than any of the separate estimates made by cattle experts)

But the book also has many examples of the madness of crowds. The book tells us, when members of the crowd consult each other first, when they influence each other’s opinions, when they update their Bayesian priors from the priors of those around them, the crowd becomes markedly less wise, often becomes insane.

The crowd, he tells us, goes mad when the members of the crowd are too conscious of the opinions of others and began to emulate each other and conform rather than think differently.

In other words, consensus is apt to be madness.

And now I depart from the book, and tell you my own observations on my own authority, not that of James Surowiecki.

Our communications skills were evolved for the hunt and for war, where groups were small and feedback from the environment was strong, immediate, and impossible to ignore.  Ignore it, you would soon get hurt.

Humans are not well adapted to the mental life of large groups, to “the life of the mind”, meaning life without forceful feedback from the senses, feedback that is frequently accompanied by physical pain to force us to pay attention.

With larger groups, more feedback from people and less feedback from the environment, consensus building is apt to go into positive feedback loops, even without deliberate manipulation by the insane and the evil.

A bubble is a manifestation of a spontaneous positive feedback loop by the sane.

Add the evil and insane to the mix, and consensus will reliably go wrong.  The sane update their views from the consensus, the insane do not update so the consensus moves towards the insane, the evil lie and manipulate the Overton window, so the consensus moves towards what the evil purport to believe.

Linguistics theory, Chomsky’s universal grammar, is best understood as grantsmanship (the evil), an effort by academics who did not know or care much about foreign languages to take control of a juicy chunk of academia from  polylingual language geeks.  The lies about language continually and radically changed, reflecting not the pressure from the sane, nor updates on the basis of information, but, like the abruptly changing Soviet line, moves in a struggle over grants and power.  Global Warming is similarly a combination of grantsmanship (the evil) with the death-to-humankind greenies (evil and insane).

Anti dietary fat science is primarily the insane dominating the consensus (greenies and animal rights activists who are entirely unmoved by either evidence or the opinions of the sane).

The financial crisis is a combination of bubble (the sane are apt to spontaneously go off the rails by paying too much attention to each other and not enough to external reality) with evil (political loan allocation) and with the evil and insane (affirmative action going ever lefter than thou.)

The destruction of fatherhood, the financial crisis, and lots of others, including global warming, are all manifestations of the left singularity.  Lefter than thou is the way to power, so whatever direction the consensus tends to move, whether spontaneously as in a bubble or through madness, becomes a path for the evil to gain power,  (“Hey, we are all agreed on X, so we need to enforce X”) so whatever the direction that the consensus happens to be moving defines leftism, whereupon the evil push it ever further in that direction.  (“We need to enforce X even more than it is already being enforced.  Grant all power to us, and we will take care of X”)

Thus in the left singularity evil and madness invariably ally, to pursue ever escalating heights of madness.

The scientific method, (short form: “take no ones word for it”) was a conscious effort to be mindful of this flaw in our natures, and socially enforce behavior that protects the group from it. The scientific method is replication. He who invokes “consensus” preaches not science, but authority and faith.

The twinkle up, twinkle down consensus building behavior of OWS, on the contrary, is an effort to socially and coercively enforce this flaw in our nature, from which the evil and the insane benefit.

The corporate form is also an effort to protect us from this flaw in our nature.  The board appoints the CEO, and monitors him, but is not supposed to second guess him and direct him.  Consensus is socially prohibited.  The board chooses one guy, and goes with what he thinks. If they don’t like it, they choose another, but they are not supposed to switch too often, and not supposed to meddle.  When the board meddles, people in the investor class tend to view this as improper and corrupt.  They are supposed to look over his shoulder and keep an eye on what he is doing, but are not supposed to second guess him, short of firing him.

The reason that rentacops were so effective in dealing with OWS is the corporate form:

The shareholders theoretically appoint the board (though more commonly it appoints itself, and subsequently perpetuates itself).  The board appoints the CEO, and delegates to him full power over the assets of the firm.  He is not supposed to suffer any interference from the board, short of being suddenly fired, and mostly he does not.

He in turn delegates the full power of the property owner down the line (or at least he is supposed to), and in the case of security, delegates to the guys in each building.  Thus, when OWS attempted to occupy, the security guards did not need to consult with a bunch of suits, who would in turn consult with a bunch of lawyers, who would consult with … instead the security guards had all necessary authority to act ex tempore without consulting anyone, to exercise the sort of power over trespassers that a private owner would.   When dealing with outside intrusion, some poorly paid guy was able to speak with the full authority of the owners, the shareholders, since the shareholders had granted full authority to the board, the board to the CEO, and the CEO … all the way down to some poorly paid guy who has a stungun and pepper spray in his desk.  When the security guys decide to throw out some unwanted visitors, that is usually morally and legally the same as if they personally owned the building, for those who actually do own the building fully delegated that moral and legal authority to them.

Of course, just as it all too frequently happens that board does meddle, it also all too frequently happens that corporate decisions are made by committees, but it is not supposed to happen.  Committee management and matrix management is a manifestation of the mid level management hugging power to themselves.  One is likely to  see a meeting of twenty high status people, and one lower status person who does not speak much, the lower status person being the one who actually knows the matter being discussed, the one who is actually responsible for giving effect to the supposed consensus of the meeting.  But corporations are not supposed to make decisions by meetings and consensus, and mostly they do not.  To the extent that they do, they deservedly suffer ridicule.

The OWS model would have the shareholders gather in  a crowd, and twinkle up and twinkle down at each other.  In the corporate model, the poorly paid guy with a stungun in his desk is the avatar for the shareholders.  He is the property owner, in their place, exercising their full authority to deal with unwanted visitors.  He does not file a report to the shareholders proposing courses of action and wait for them to twinkle the various courses of action up or down.

Regulation, however, interferes with the corporate model.  To do something that is regulated, the corporation finds it has to get buy in from dozens, perhaps hundreds,  sometimes thousands, of meddlesome people.

In regulation, the evil and insane, which is to say the consensus, prohibit the sane (the corporate form) from acting, and even from sanity.  In the banking crisis, they demanded conformity not only in action, but in thought.

Markets are also a way of avoiding consensus, since each participant in the market is expected to outsmart all the others, thus as in science, replicate the research of each of the others.  The laws against “insider trading” attempt to prohibit this, but do not have the effect of enforcing consensus.  Price control and rationing does have the effect, but we are not getting that problem.

The corporate form is mostly sane because consensus is socially discouraged, replaced by delegating concentrated power freely, and concentrating power as much as practical.  The scientific method is sane, if actually followed, though markedly slower and less efficient than the corporate form, because consensus is discouraged for replication (“take no one’s word for it”).  The market is mostly sane, because market participants are supposed to strive to each be smarter than the rest, rather than to conform. Corporations exist because markets require more decision making by more smart people, because markets replicate decision making. Corporations economize on decision making, by telling people what to do.

Since committee decision making is expensive, as well as tending to madness, a corporation that finds itself holding meetings to make decisions should consider outsourcing the activities that are causing this problem to the market.

Peer review enforces consensus in science, as regulation enforces it against corporations.  And so the the insane take over the asylum.

Why has science stopped progressing?

Peer review came into broad application around 1942 or so, and that is pretty much when science stopped progressing.  Technology continued to progress until 1972, and some areas of technology continue to progress today, but large areas stopped progressing in 1972, and many additional areas of have very recently stopped progressing, at least in the West.

Because of peer review, Einstein’s special relativity paper would not be publishable today.  Any paper that is publishable today has lots and lots of citations to prove it is in line with the consensus.  Einstein’s paper conspicuously lacked citations, because it was not in line with the consensus.  Einstein was not an academic, and not a PhD, his paper had few or no citations, and radically up ended existing physics.

When I was taught special relativity, they did not tell us Einstein was right because the holy consensus tells us so, they had us replicate the calculations and review the evidence that Einstein presented in “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” just as if Einstein was some patent clerk with neither PhD nor academic position.

Einstein attempted to present special relativity as his dissertation, and it was rejected.  If rejected as his dissertation, would surely have been rejected had it ever been submitted to peer review.  So instead he submitted for his dissertation a don’t-rock-the-boat paper that contained nothing very new or interesting.

Each person replicating the research of each of the others can be costly.  A corporation reduces the cost of this, enabling the employment of people who are not bright, by telling them what to do. Externally a corporation is market oriented, each corporation replicating the research of all the other corporations in the market, but though externally a corporation is market oriented, internally, a corporation is socialism, but what people fail to notice is that internally it is socialism on the pattern of the Nazis, the socialism of the Führerprinzip, not the socialism of the modern left whose massive dysfunction we see on display at Occupy Wall Street.

This sounds like corporations are oppressive, and they are, but in practice it means that a low pay low IQ security guy does not need to hold a meeting, nor wire the board for instructions, when a bunch of bad guys attempt to occupy the office. Full concentration of power to the CEO is supposed to be accompanied by full delegation of power from the CEO, and usually it is.

The Führerprinzip is that you don’t have committees and you don’t have votes and you don’t have consensus.  Each leader (Führer in German) is delegated full authority in his own area by his leader.

According to allied propaganda, the Führerprinzip is that the Führer is above the law and incarnates the German people, but rather, the Führerprinzip is more the common sense observation that committees are dreadfully bad at making decisions, and you should appoint a smart guy with full authority to deal with X, and hold him fully responsible for any foul ups in X.

This maximizes the capability of hierarchical organizations to get lots of stupid people to perform functions that would require smart people, were they a multitude of independent operators in the market, and lowers the high cost of figuring out what to do.

In contrast, organizations that have lots of committees tend to be horribly Dilbertesque.  In practice, the socialism intended by the modern left is markedly worse than the socialism practiced by Hitler, in roughly the same proportion as the socialism practiced by the communists murdered more people than the socialism practiced by Hitler.  Rather than people being empowered by participation, they are oppressed  by meetings that they do not want to go to, and strangled by red tape.

Leftists want to slice power into lots and lots of tiny little slices, and share that power out between lots and lots of people, but this in practice is horribly disfunctional.  What it does is not empower people but instead ensure that decisions are evil and insane, in other words, ensure that decisions are left wing.  It also increases the cost of decision making.  If a decision is sufficiently important that it is worth spending the time of a lot of important people on it, then it should be made by the market, or by the scientific method, not by consensus.

Because the socialism of the Nazis was inherently saner than the socialism of the modern left, it was inherently less left wing, hence its markedly lower murder rate.  And thus the modern left, which is to say the modern state, reaches into science, markets, and corporations to remake them all into its own image, which is to say, make them all inherently evil and insane.

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27 Responses to “Stultum facit fortuna”

  1. dave says:

    1942 may also be around the time that the majority of science came to be funded through government grants. Maybe +/- 10 years or so.

  2. Steve Johnson says:

    Forgive my ignorance but is there a specific event in 1972 that marked the end of technological progress?

    Was it the final manned moon mission?

    • jim says:

      late 1972, final manned moon mission, early 1973, completion of the tallest buildings in the US, 1971-72 massive escalation of affirmative action of women into the sciences and engineering. 1970, US cars became slower and less powerful.

    • Cars are today more powerful and have higher top speeds, but you are correct that regulations in the early 1970s hurt the muscle cars of the era, and that modern cars would be more efficient and more powerful without the myriad bullshit environmental and safety regulations.

      A 1971 Buick Regal had 250 hp and got to 60 mph in about 8.1 seconds with a three speed transmission. A modern Civic can do it in less than seven seconds using 201 hp. And the modern car takes less labor for a median worker to acquire, and lasts three times longer, and requires exponentially less repairs and maintenance (almost zero until 100k miles, when the Buick will need a new long block).

      • jim says:

        And the modern car takes less labor for a median worker to acquire,

        The modern car does not take less labor for the median worker to acquire.

        Median worker 1972, made a bit over ten thousand dollars, for which he could buy two and half new cars

        Median worker today, mad a bit over twenty five thousand dollars, for which he could buy one and a quarter new cars.

        A 1971 Buick Regal had 250 hp and got to 60 mph in about 8.1 seconds with a three speed transmission. A modern Civic can do it in less than seven seconds using 201 hp

        That is because a modern Civic is made out of plastic and tinfoil, which may well explain the failure of accident statistics to improve. Also a median worker in 1972 could afford a Buick, but a median worker today cannot afford a modern Civic.

        I cannot find the 1972 price of a Buick regal, but from similar Buicks, I would guess just under four thousand, allowing the median worker to buy two and half of them.

  3. Dave says:

    It sounds to me that you are advocating futarchy (direct rule by market).

    One way to emulate this in our system of government is to immediately create a $1000 poll tax in all federal elections. This would weed out most of the meddlers and insane from the poll booth.

    • dave says:

      We had that once. Only land-owners could vote, which achieved much the same end sought here.

      But as we’ve seen in our history, apparently you can’t have just some people vote without eventually having everyone vote. And since the direction of democracy only goes one way, there would need to be a coup or revolution in order to impose your plan.

      And as long as your fomenting a revolution, it might be better to setup a more stable system than this “votes only for moneyed elite” system. Bound to fail, it either devolves into a soviet style bifurcated society inner/outer party, or it expands into the wonderful mess that we have in the USA today.

      I like moldbugs (if it is his) idea of a government/corporation where you buy shares by paying taxes, and those shares entitle you to ownership in the charter/government and hence authority to delegate. It might be better at self-regulating, and if it’s stable, can stay that way.

      • spandrell says:

        You can’t have democracy without universal suffrage if you worship a God who said that we are all equal. And you claim your government governs ‘for the people’. You need an explicit caste ideology that justifies in metaphysical terms depraving of suffrage to the unproductive. And we don’t have that.

        • Dave says:

          Spendrell that is a wise observation and it is certainly true for the common generic (quasi Puritanical) Christian.

          Some Protestants (conservative Lutherans) still cling to Luther’s teaching about the separation of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. In their view, a Christian is ultimately responsible to God, but when dealing with worldly things his thinking out to primarily be informed with reason, not theology.

          This is where the idea of separation of Church and State came from. The Church should be silent with respect to political life because to engage in politics is to soil its spiritual message.

          Lutherans also teach that everyone is equal before God spiritually, but with respect to the world we have all been given unequal talents. Therefore, with respect to the polls, a Lutheran (in thoery) should have no issue with his fellow man being excluded from the vote on the basis of the uneqal distribution of talent from God.

          This is not a mainstream view amoung Christians, but it does exist. Read Luther’s Large Chatecism for details.

        • jim says:

          Lockian ideology: Government is instituted primarily to protect property. So property owners pay for it by a property tax, and it serves them.

          Unfortunately, politicians are attracted to cheap votes, so over time the franchise is apt to expand, and when it can expand no further, they set to importing a foreign underclass.

  4. Lemniscate says:

    I’ve noticed a lot of my friends on the radical left — definitely on the insane end of the spectrum — getting excited about “direct democracy”, which they somehow attempt to drape in the trendy garb of anarchism. Is this where the march towards the left-singularity is going to take us then?

    • jim says:

      What is leftism tends to change somewhat in emphasis and direction from time to time.

      Direct democracy has been a big theme since the sixties, and it has always produced repugnant results. Back then direct democracy always wound up meaning the evil ruled (usually the paid agents of the Soviet Union). Today, it has swung more towards the deranged, notably the people who want to ban the technology that makes it possible to support a large population.

  5. Red says:

    Outstanding post.

  6. Bill says:

    I’m not sure if it is a detail or an important part of the story, but rule by committee also creates selection effects. Smart, competent, sane people tend to leave for another job or, where that is not possible, hide very quietly under their desks when committees run things. So, it’s not just that the system is itself bad, but also that it drives out input from the people you should be paying the most attention to.

  7. spandrell says:

    Jim, if you are arguing for Monarchy, you’re doing it right.

  8. [...] money unless someone is twisting his arm.  Thus John Corzine personally exemplifies the fact that consensus always winds up dominated by evil and madness because the sane shift, but the insane don’t shift, and the evil lie about what they [...]

  9. [...] who will not shift their purported beliefs in the face of evidence and rational argument, thus dominated by the evil and the insane, meaning by those who lie about what their beliefs are, and thus have purported beliefs that are [...]

  10. I agree with you. This is probably why Apple Computer was so successful. Steve Jobs was a very good dictator. Now that he is gone, consensus will likely take over and all of the geniuses working there will gradually find other employment when they realize that the magic of a brilliant and forceful leader is gone.

  11. [...] you worry about schism, you are trying to build consensus.  Consensus is the opposite of truth, it is the madness of crowds.  Consensus is truth by agreement.  The Dark Enlightenment is about truth by [...]

  12. […] committees are prone to evil and madness.  IEEE 802.11 was stupid. If NIST was not stupid, it was because evil was calling the shots behind […]

  13. […] The madness of crowds, the tendency of consensus to go horribly wrong […]

  14. TJ Radcliffe says:

    Lost you at the false claim that our communication skills were evolved for hunting and “war” (which differs from the near-constant inter-troop conflict our ancestors experienced in materially relevant ways.)

    Human communication skills–like our ridiculously big brain generally–are almost certainly the result of runaway sexual selection, which explains why our cognitive and communications abilities are so similar between the sexes: we needed similar skills to be able to get each other’s jokes, and those of our ancestors who got each other’s jokes had a significant reproductive advantage.

    The role of sexual selection and the relative irrelevance of hunting and conflict to representational intelligence has been known for some decades now. Time to update those priors!

    • jim says:

      This would imply that girls are turned on by smart guys. So engineering majors should be cleaning up. Poets should be cleaning up.

      Obviously not so.

      In practice females select for fame and violence – which in the ancestral environment, would depend on success at hunting and war.

      Troop conflict is not near constant. If it was, we would not have survived. It is pretty rare. When it happens, we kill each other rapidly and efficiently, thereby ending it one way or the other.

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