As I will describe in more detail later, one of the ways that complex systems age is by becoming more complex. This increase in complexity is unavoidable and is in the nature of system aging. It can be slowed and rationalized, but the direction can’t be changed except locally. Even when local simplification is optimized, other parts of the system become less than optimal.
One of the results of increasing complexity is increasing uncertainty. Uncertainty is not the same thing as risk. A risk is a measure of the likelihood that something will happen. A roulette wheel allows the calculation of risk, and risk is something associated with systems that are machine-like.
You can’t calculate the probability of an uncertainty, even though people keep trying to do just that (think about the Fukushima nuclear accident). There are automatic and unavoidable unintended consequences to using risk calculation as a proxy for real uncertainty. We are largely oblivious to this reality.
Adding to this, because imperfect cycling is built into every complex system, even when things seem to be going smoothly, they are always a little off and get more off as time goes on.
I. Assisted Suicide Discriminates Against People with Disabilities
A. Assisted Suicide is Part of the Long and Tragic History of Discrimination Against People with Disabilities
B. Assisted Suicide Denies People with Disabilities, Including Those With and Without Terminal Conditions, the Benefit of the State’s Suicide Prevention Protections
C. Assisted Suicide Denies People with Disabilities the Benefit of State Suicide Prevention and the Enforcement of Homicide Laws, in Violation of the ADA
II. Assisted Suicide Poses Serious, Unavoidable Threats to People with Disabilities that New York has a Significant State Interest in Preventing
A. The State Has a Critical Interest in Ensuring that Assisted Suicide Decisions Are Not Coerced or Made by Others
B. It is Dangerous and Discriminatory to Assume that the Suicide of a Disabled Person, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, is “Rational”
C. The Uncertainty of a “Terminal Prognosis” Means that Disabled People Who Are Not Terminal Will Receive the Lethal Prescription of Assisted Suicide
D. Appellants’ Position that Disability Intrinsically Deprives Life of Dignity and Value Is Dangerous and Discriminatory
III.The Creation of a Constitutional Right to Assisted Suicide For a Class of New Yorkers Based on Their Health and Disability Status is a Lethal Form of Discrimination
A. People with Disabilities, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, Are The Precise Class of People Who Will Be Affected If a Right to Assisted Suicide Is Found
B. There Exist No Safeguards Adequate to Protect People with Disabilities from Assisted Suicide
1. Limiting Assisted Suicide to Terminally Ill Persons Will Fail to Protect Nonterminal People with Disabilities
2. Limiting Assisted Suicide To “Voluntary” Requests will Fail to Protect People with Disabilities from Abuse
C. Assisted Suicide Prevents People With Disabilities, Whether Terminal or Nonterminal, From Receiving Equal Protection of Laws Pertaining to Suicide Prevention and Homicide
It is no longer possible to disentangle political, social, and financial elites. But the goals of elites haven’t changed in 7,000 years.
Elites politically manage non-elite communities through two related and now integrated processes:
Management of Expectations: The explicit face of elite management
Management of Constraints: The implicit face of elite management
We can modify our reaction to management by elites and we can create small systems that are not worth the while of elites to manage, but we are a very long way from being able to do anything systemically about elite management.
These forces that undermine have always been there, but they were manageable parts of a larger social system that performed actual good for the larger community, even while it allowed elites to parasitize us:
All public communication is inaccurate: Personal communication is still as accurate as it gets, but all communication that is intended for larger communities is framed by hidden agendas, and various lies, hedging, misdirection, and other forms of message fakery, some messages more so and some less so.
All political systems are corrupt: It isn’t that all political people are corrupt, but rather that all political systems and decision making are corrupted by elites and hidden organizational agendas. So, even principled decisions are tainted by corruption, even if no one knows this has occurred.
The legal system is too complex to be generally effective: Although we have a long history of using the legal/political system to redress the grievance, the effectiveness of redress has steadily degraded for almost a half century. And, there is no effective way to simplify it. Effective simplification in this context means that the mission-critical values of the original system are retained while the corruption is eliminated,
All saviors aren’t: You would think that this undermining force is too obvious to need to be stated. But, apparently, people still think that individuals or political parties or political subcommunities, or some other non-local social entity will be the salvation of what is good and right, that something other than hard work, the building of real and deep personal relationships, and creative flexible experimentation will be necessary to begin to take over our future. How can anyone in the current world believe that we will still be taken care of by someone or something else?
It is both astounding and terrifying that 10% of global GDP is allocated to offshore tax shelters. Apparently, this now amounts to $17-$20 trillion dollars. Almost no one but the 1% uses offshore tax shelters, so this represents what the 1% has extracted from global economies and permanently removed from the possibility for use by the rest of us. There is nothing remotely possible that we can do to restore these funds to nation states or change what they are used to accomplish. Putin’s recent request of Russian oligarchs to return $1 trillion dollars of this tax-sheltered repository is the most obvious example of the potential impact of this lost wealth.
The recent national legislative tax law is designed to dramatically accelerate this process for however long it is politically feasible. Even if there is a shift in the political composition of the administration and Congress, nothing will be done about these trillions. It is the buffer for the 1% to deal with the unavoidable reality of recession/depression.
Our society is aging and the income of people beyond a certain age drops, meaning fewer tax payments and fewer resources for the supports our community depends on for a free life of real choice. This problem is compounded because aging eventually brings with it additional functional and intellectual disability and a consequent need for supports.
Even political victories about resources that go into supports are usually translated into bureaucratic and administrative costs that arise from the denial or restriction of supports. So, not only do we need more support, but the natural behavior of our bureaucratic system is to increase administrative costs as a way of “reducing” the costs of supports.
The only way to reduce the impact of aging on tax revenues is to have a large group of young people join our society and work over decades, as happened after the second world war. Because of the current administration’s views on immigration, that isn’t going to happen, and even the previous default immigration policies were only moderately more supportive of immigration.
No American immigration policy in the recent past would materially affect the process of lost tax revenues caused by an aging population.
Growth in the American economy has been debt-fueled since the 1930’s. Debt has become an even more prominent driver of the economy since the “blossoming” of financial speculation in the 90’s. The fact that the economy is debt-fueled doesn’t mean that the economy doesn’t grow and contract. It just means that over time, debt becomes the most important way the economy grows, leaving innovation and increases in productivity behind.
The crash of 2008 was based on a speculative bubble in housing and we apparently learned nothing from that. Current personal and private corporate debt in the US is above the level just before the 2008 crash. This time it is not just housing debt or primarily housing debt. Instead, it includes much more unsecured debt like credit cards and “investment” through debt by corporations. If a crash occurs there won’t be houses that can be foreclosed, bought, refurbished and resold. Just debt.
That can’t be a good thing since we effectively have no other way to grow. Student debt is also playing a larger and larger role every day in the brittleness of our economic system, and, whether the economy grows or not, student debt defaults will increase over time.
We seem completely incapable of doing anything about this rolling disaster. In April of 2018, world GDP is roughly $75 trillion, and world debt is $250 trillion. I’ll update this as I get new figures of meaningful change.
There has not been a time in my life when the idea and possibilities of social struggle have been so deeply a part of every community and social network in America. Yet, in many ways, our social struggle is flailing about, looking for a path without finding one.
We understand what is wrong immediately in front of us, but have a hard time seeing the larger forces in the more distant context.
A variety of trends, none of them new, are slowly shifting our society toward various outcomes, none of them good. The ones I’ll discuss are only examples, not all of those trends:
We are all aware of the current chaos in our society, but we tend to focus on the cause of this chaos as the changes that have occurred recently, rather than seeing those recent changes as the product of long-standing large-scale ongoing change.
If we don’t grasp the large-scale context of what we face now, we will make strategic errors in our rights and freedom campaigns. These errors will reinforce the failure of the very things we are trying to transform.
As Gregory Bateson claimed, the possibilities of choice in the near future hinge on us understanding the full range of affordances (opportunities for action) in the environment of where we are right now. We must not leap to premature action.
We don’t see those affordances very well because we tend to use what we are afraid of as a filter, eliminating the vast majority of what we might do before we consider the possibilities for changing our future. This filtering effectively leads us to fall back on old habits of fearful response.
This is true of individuals, families, groups, organizations and larger social entities. Our human instinct to herd reinforces our use of those filters resulting in a narrowing of our dreams for the future.
“Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.” – Edward Gibbon
“Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.” – Henry Kissinger
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” – Jay Leno
All complex systems age, grow, peak, and decline. There is no magic way to keep any complex system young, any more than you can somehow live forever. There are reasons for this reality, but we often refuse to accept it for the same reasons we refuse to accept our own aging. This doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our lives or our society, but these improvements don’t stop us or our society from aging.
If I have arthritis in one hip and it gets bad enough, I might have a hip replacement operation. If it is successful, the quality of my life will be dramatically improved. But, I won’t stop growing older.
Rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause. Nassim Nicholas Taleb
An ideology is nothing but a complicated set of assumptions that has the same flaws in the complex, rapidly changing, and unpredictable world we now all inhabit as all the other concepts I have described in the last few slides. The fact that people are willing to die for an ideology is no different than the willingness of an adolescent risking death by riding on top of a car with tie-downs at 80 miles an hour, or someone who never leaves their house because of a phobia.
I have come to believe that all belief systems are like membership cards for participation in some human community, with the accuracy or consistency of the beliefs being a low priority concern. Belief serves social but not predictive purposes.
An ideology SEEMS different because it has a much more sophisticated meaning framework attached to it, but it is no more accurate nor useful as a guide to future behavior than any other driven behavior. And ideological belief is as clearly driven as any drug addiction.
While modern political/religious ideologies all tend to talk about rights, the rights they variously support as critical are actually obligations. Someone who takes an ideological position of weapon ownership or freedom of speech is OBLIGATED to use that right. Freedom has nothing to do with it. The ordinary use of the idea of a right is that it opens up an arena of possibility, not that it imposes an obligation. Hence, ideologies are driven, though not all for the same reasons.
The substitute for an ideology is to work hard to improve life for yourself and others through creative and persistent effort with no prior assumptions about what might work. But such an approach seems hard to do (it is) and it is so much easier to delude one’s self that the truth is clear and easily understood. We don’t have to make real choices once we have chosen our overarching System of Truth and Obligation.
Real deep change isn’t easy. It requires that you create something genuinely new for a real-world test. Variation requires creative action even when it just involves bacteria. It most certainly is required to deal with the forces at work in our lives.