The Laxative Effect: Extracting Oneself out of a Society Full of Shit.

You wanna get the fuck out of dodge? You can't get there from here.

There is no Spoon! Escaping the System - In which Jamie describes the nature of perverted/corrupted hierarchies and how they manifest control of you and and the mind trap that keep you stuck in the system.

(this might turn into a sequel to The Cultural Utility of Lifestyle Porn)

While I don't use the same language to describe the phenomena, Jamie's description of hierarchy phenomena hit the nail on the head for me. The corruption of hierarchy into those where the talkers end up 'gaining power' and manipulating the teams into boosting their own prestige at the expensive of others. The way this pattern plays out in many corporate hierarchies ("CEOs" as Jamie puts it) is the basis for what has been termed "The Gervais principle" by Venkatesh Rao, who went so far as to explore a number of conceptions of hierarcy while trying to describe it. @VGR had a talk on this last year and it is fascinating to me.


What got this horrible ball of shit rolling?

Why do we see these patterns in society?

In older cultures and smaller tribes there was always someone who relied on talking. They were the person who kept tabs on relationships and would know the gossip. Stuff like who martha married, how big jim's chickens are doing after the last cold spell, and would often be someone that the village would consult when it comes to stuff like rituals, and gave advice about things like relationships and generally keep the village in order. They were the information conduit.

When the social system is small, this talking role is also a natural hierarchy - someone was always at the center of this gossip and they would be considered wise. It was beneficial because often the incentive of this behavior is aligned with the health of the tribe - often tribes were little more than extended families with relationships that might be no more distant than a couple of generations out so it would be basically a family bond keeping everything in check.

Of course they also had the other kind of natural hierarchy Jamie described - the dooers. These would manifest as various crafts people. Blacksmiths, and Breadmakers, or The sheperd in the field who knew a lot about how to herd sheep and where the best grazing was, or the apothecarist who knew all the best places to forage for mushrooms or knew how to read and would obsessively log seasonal changes and various outcomes (before writing, this would be done via stories, and there ere also stuff like https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/africa-ap/a/lukasa-memory-board-luba-peoples and examples of using notched sticks and other non-verbal methods http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/news-releases-archive/aboriginal). This also was a natural hierarchy because of how knowledge was transferred thru systems of apprenticeship, or more directly thru teaching your children the ways of your family.

The natural hierarchy here commonly matches seniority in a family (or seniority in teams) by the simple fact that the more experienced (wisest) member is often the oldest. Though of course this isn't always the case, as wisdom isn't just a factor of experience, but also one of observation and thought. In larger groups, the natural leadership role is often traded off because different people will have different levels of experience for various tasks. In your analogy of a sport game, this could be where someone takes charge when they are on defense, but rescinds his 'power' to someone else when they are on offence because different strategies are required for each.

Its interesting point to bring up families here because a common misunderstanding we have in our society is the concept around the term "alpha". Commonly associated with hierarchy, the term has been disowned by the person who coined it because he later went back and realized that the alpha wolves he had seen in the packs were actually just the father and mother, and the pecking order was little more than older brothers and sisters teaching the pups. It shows in his research if you read it, but he also explicitly called it out in this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNtFgdwTsbU


I also think there is a connection here with one of Jamie's previous videos on his reaction to 'nego-trolls' I didn't quite make my point clearly when talking about it to him, but in the context of this video it might make more sense.

Another member of his fan community made a suggestion of trying ot look at the 'nego-trolls' point of view:

Towards your goal of helping people ignore trolls (which is a worthy goal), the more you understand WHY they are doing what they are doing, the easier it is to ignore them. Or, if you so choose, the easier it is to engage with them, because knowing their motivations allows you to speak their own language to them, and that helps turn the arguments in your own favor.

I think there's some rationality at the group level in terms of it being useful to spread an emotion (fear/shame) as a way to share the group's overall level of risk appetite. Fear and anger are one of the best spread emotions, and if we view these as a way to communicate about the overall state of a small tribe, it makes sense. At least the context of a smaller tribe with a more natural information sharing heriarchy,

For stuff that requires collective action, this tacit knowledge of the 'health' of the tribe can affect decision making. You don't want to go hunting if a high proportion of your hunters are sick. You don't want to explore for more food sources if someone else spotted a pack of wild dogs (or bandits, another tribe's warriors etc) and is afraid. As groups grow beyond simple family ties it gets harder to communicate the details like this, but being able to quickly spread a compressed version of how much risk the community can tolerate would be quite useful.

So perhaps we are a species wired to form information networks of maybe 2500 people, meant to capture local risk. But over the past 250 years or so the speed of information travel has combined in a very toxic way with norms around advertising and propaganda. A disaster happening halfway across the world can feel like it's happening to your neighbor. And because modern media makes money off of views and clicks it's only getting worse thru competition.

So I wouldn't say to look at it from "their perspective", but I think it's important to consider how we might be spreading the notion of safety by perpetuating negativity. It "feels right" to be negative to somebody if your own sense of the world is that the risks are too high. We may not think about it that way, but it is in a sense a way of trying to help. A way that isn't helpful anymore.

Status and social hierarchy based on influence is a major aspect to the way social these hierarchies form. Prestige and social standing (perepetuated via this penchant for natural gossip hierarchies) are classically used as proxy measures of influence in early societies. I'm particularly fond of this framing of social prestige as a way for a socialites to track resources (and has since been co-opted to be about power) We even see the effects of false-applause and propaganda tactics in the early 7th century as a way to influence larger groups.

To me its the same kind of thing that happens when an idea gets called a 'load of bullshit" - shaming an idea using emotionally charged and contagious framing. These kinds of things are a form of negative signalling and an aspect of how we police other's beliefs. This make some sense too. Expressing a level of disagreement it's a healthy part of discussion and a way that groups form consensus.

I think if we're going to undermine the way that this process has been perverted it's important to bring this process to light. If we're going to overcome it collectively, we need more voices speaking out against how our society is squashing curiosity and exploration.

In the first video Jamie makes a point to talk about how just because something is natural doesn't mean it's 'ok' to perpetuate. I think this is important to bring up this point here too w/ regards to the fear/shame/anger mechanic. Just because I say this process makes sense to me doesn't mean I approve of it, or agree with it. it doesn't make it right, or proper, and it doesn't mean there aren't other ways to do things. Just that I can see how such a phenomena could occur. I also think this stuff is bullshit - its like we've found ourselves stuck in a shitty self-reinforcing cycle. The norms we use maintain our society seem like artifacts of history, emergent phenomena that perpetuates itself because they happen to be the ones that were successful.

And like Jamie has suggested, the only way out is to avoid entrenching your self into this bullshit further: We leave thru the bottom - society has to shit you out.

You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

Shitting oneself out of society.

Useful article: Framing of the problem of clickbait in terms of signaling credibility?

I really dislike clickbait headlines. Back in 2014, in an effort to 'know thy enemy', I did an exploration of what makes it tick. Exploring why they work helped me hone in on why I disliked them, and helped me find more interesting content, and as a result, more longform.

One of the things that stood out for me is how how many articles on the subject were generic. I found tons of of blog posts that would give tips. Many of these advice articles seem to be more about reporting on trends. They'd try to break down the titles in terms of a formula for virality, or give a point in time "here's the best thing". They explain the 'what', but not the 'why'.

It's very rare to find deeper analysis of 'why' they work the way they do. Or explorations into sharing that try to generate deeper theories of what works.

Today's session made me realize one of the strengths of of longform blogging: it seems to be less about trying to get virality and instead focusing on communicating ideas clearly. So if I had to frame the Ribbonfarm titling ideas against classic click-bait ones, the difference is there's a strong focus about setting up a context.

I believe VGR alluded to this idea a bit in his Trace of the Weirding - exploring how Breaking Smart is a sort of themepark. A good theme park ride makes use of shared experiences and familiar thematic elements to help guide the guest through a sort of journey. A great themepark ride leaves the guest with an experience that they remember - a sort of amalgam of branding and novelty that sticks with them after the fact due to the strong sense of the journey.

In this framing, clickbait is like a carnival - cheap thrills and excitement. A good example is the classic 'fun house' ride. Due to the temporary nature of the setup, there's not enough time or space to really build up an extended experience; they tend to focus on surprises and shock. But for something at a themepark, there is enough context that people are even able to recreate recognizable elements of it in minecraft.

I wonder if there might be sources of inspiration for titling Ribbonfarm blog entries by exploring how theme park rides are named. I don't think it's a mistake that Frontierland is considered a good blog title, and that the minecraft example is situated in that area in Disney.

As a park guest, I know instantly by the ride title that "thunder mountain" is probably going to be too intense for me, but is probably going to be a more interesting experience vs "extreme rollercoaster #142 will make you scream".

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