Economic motivation in dedomenocracy: avoiding culture of poverty

My discussions of dedomenocracy are from my imagination of how a state government may operate when all data and analytics automate all decisions.

My initial motivation for exploring this thought experiment is to continue my complaints against the recent trends to automate business decisions by exaggeration to apply it to entire governments.   I started with an presumption that social stability requires super-majority consent to government.   I argued that modern history shows that human accountable decision making can result in non-coerced consent.   Similar social harmony and consent does not seem possible in a dedomenocracy unless it is coerced through an authoritarian system.

Again, my motivation in describing dedomenocracy is to argue against it.  Even if data-driven decisions are generally beneficent, there will be no human understandable defense for the occasional mistakes.   People will rebel if there is no one who can answer for a harmful decision with either a persuasive defense of the decision or a promise to avoid similar mistakes in the future.   A dedomenocracy can never offer such persuasion or promises.   Instead, the justification for dedomenocracy is its agility to create new rules when new data suggest different approaches.

As I wrote about dedomenocracy, I imagined that a population may actually accept it for government.  I reasoned that childhood education can emphasize data science so that future citizens will have basic data skills of querying and challenging data.   A requirement for full citizenship in a dedomenocracy is to have these skills.   Although the citizens can not challenge the automated decisions, they can challenge the data (and assumptions) that go into those decisions.   It is at least possible that a data-science educated population can accept a dedomenocracy without coercion.

Lately, my posts for dedomenocracy have defended it as a beneficial or even a preferred form of government.   Dedomenocracy may be inevitably emerging from our current increasingly bureaucratic democracy.   Although these posts are optimistic about a future government is based only on data and not on politics, I personally remain very pessimistic that it can succeed.

Data and algorithms can not command armies (police, etc) to defend it from unpersuaded angry mobs.  As we are currently observing in many parts of the world, mobs can rise up against even generally benevolent governments (in terms of providing good living standards) when they do not agree with the rationale for government, or they cannot comprehend those ideas.   When that happens, there is not much that can stop them from dismantling the government.   For a dedomenocracy, it would not require much destruction to cause the entire government to collapse.

That has been my principle complaint about automated a human-accountable decision maker.   The social contract will eventually fall apart into chaos.   Dedomenocracy can not exist without extensive infrastructure for data collection, storage, and analysis.   There is no graceful degradation of dedomenocracy rule: it is either all or nothing.   If we had a fully operational dedomenocracy, the population will eventually have data science skills instead of skills compatible for democratic debate.   If a dedomenocracy collapses, the population would not be able to self-organize to produce a backup government.  Chaos will be the result.  Chaos like what we are observing in many parts of the world today.

I admit that I have failed to make a strong case for this potential for calamity.   At least in recent posts, I have taken a position that a dedomenocracy is realistic and in fact we may already be heading toward one.   Given a reasonably satisfied population with a faith in the wisdom of data-driven decision-making, and a strong institution of policing dissent, the resulting government may be very stable and long lasting.   In terms of durability, a dedomenocracy can be competitively comparable to other governments.

In my recent posts, I have described dedomenocracy contributions in a positive light.   Many modern political controversies can be resolved quickly with an agile system (frequently updated short-lived rules) based on most recent data.    The agility is the key factor in that it can contradict itself over time so that people will gain confidence that eventually it will find a happy compromise.   Instead of compromising through unproductive debates, the compromise comes from informed trial and error.

Dedomenocracy may become permanently successful and stable with no risk of collapse.   It can have the politically comfortable result of eliminating debate in society.   The risk here is cultivating a culture that accepts a lower quality of life in exchange for an unchangeable  government.

Modern examples of stable and unchangeable governments include communist regimes of Cuba and North Korea.   It is possible that a successful dedomenocracy can produce the same results we see in these countries.   Of the two, there is more information available about Cuba both from the easier access to dissident views and from the US promoters and defenders of Cuba.

I do not claim any expertise on Cuba.  Instead what I know is what I’ve read in popular press and on Internet sites.   My personal observation is that the current reality of life inside Cuba shares a lot in common with a dedomenocracy.   For example, one complaint about Cuba is its human rights abuses but I’ve argued similar abuses are likely in an agile dedomenocracy that resorts to corporal punishments for crimes and reserves long-term prison terms only for political prisoners.  The difference would be only in how the government defines crimes or political-dissent.   A dedomenocracy will use data instead of human judgement.   Otherwise, similar incidents of what we consider to be human rights abuses will occur.

Another example is the complaint that in Cuba people’s neighbors or even family members may be informers to the state and will inform the state of someone’s transgressions.   A dedomenocracy also depends on extensive data collection to the individual level.  The difference is only that dedomenocracy uses more efficient and reliable technology for sensors instead of human informers.    In a dedomenocracy, the government will have extensive information about each individual.   In a dedomenocracy, the government excludes human participation in decision making.   All decisions are automated from trusted analytics of validated data.    However, there will be the same result of no expectation of privacy or of sharing secrets between people.

As I noted earlier, a dedomenocracy can become a durable form of government.  Certainly, both Cuba and North Korea have proven to be very durable and internally stable authoritarian governments.   There seems little risk of internal dissent that can threaten the stability of the government.   That stability comes from the stern authoritarianism of the government, but there is no denying that such authoritarianism is effective in maintaining stability.   I argue that a dedomenocracy has authoritarian aspects and it can obtain a similar result.   I could argue that dedomenocracy will implement authoritarianism differently and perhaps more justifiably based on data and urgency, but for the effects of authoritarianism on those who are affected will be similar.    The government will be at times cruel to certain individuals.

Cuba has survived in more or less its current form for multiple generations.  Although there continues to be a strong authoritarian rule over the population, it appears to me that the most of the population is cooperating so that they are not running a risk of being disciplined.   This result is comparable to the desired outcome from dedomenocracy where people will learn behaviors to avoid attracting new rules that will interfere with their lives.   Over time, the culture should be similar in that people will live their lives with some caution on what they allow themselves to do.

This article discusses the conditions in Cuba as a culture of poverty (CoP) defined as:

While poverty is defined in relative terms, the CoP was conceptualized as an amorphous corpus of socially transmitted self-defeating beliefs and interrelated values, such as: abandonment, alcoholism, authoritarianism, deficient work ethic, domestic abuse, fatalism, homophobia/machismo, hopelessness, illegitimacy, instant, gratification/present-time orientation, low social-civic consciousness, mother-centered families, sexism/misogyny, suspicion of authorities while holding expectations on government dependency, and so forth.

The initial part of the article discusses an earlier study that sought to show that the new Marxist government would avoid such a culture because this culture was a consequence of capitalist inequalities.  Instead they found:

There exists a widespread CoP in Socialist Cuba, though not necessarily as a survivor of the ancien régime, but -as Butterworth deduced- a consequence of the nouveau régime. The authorities must have suspected, or ascertained through surveillance, about the prospective conclusions, given that the anthropologists were suddenly expelled from the country. They were accused of being U.S. spies, most of their research material was confiscated, and some “informants” (interviewees) were arrested and/or harassed.

The culture of poverty came as a result of the Marxist rule.   The above definition of culture of poverty seems consistent with many stories of what life is like in communist countries including this recent narrative about Cuba:

What struck me most while walking around Havana for the first time is how dead and quiet it is. This was unexpected, though in hindsight I should have known. Where has communism ever been lively?

Given the similarities of dedomenocracy and communism (Marxism), it seems likely that society can degenerate eventually to a culture of poverty similar to what is in Cuba.   The above description of culture of poverty even includes the properties of instant gratification and present-time orientation.   These properties match the essential nature of dedomenocracy to focus on the present instead of the past through rapid but short-lasting rules.   In a dedomenocracy, the government itself is dedicated to the short term.    At least for these two properties, we should expect that the population would also embrace the same mindset of short term thinking.

A dedomenocracy is different from a communist government because the rules come from automated analytics of objective data instead of designated humans making arbitrary rules.   In earlier discussions, I implied that the population’s acceptance of automated and objective decision making to have an optimistic result of a society the works similar to our current modern experience.

However, the concept of a dedomenocracy is to allow the culture to change freely and only impose rules when there is an urgency to obtain some benefit or to avoid some hazard.   The culture can change freely and the government will adapt to those changes.

I don’t think a dedomenocracy has any restraint preventing the culture from degenerating into a culture of poverty.   I argued in earlier discussions that a dedomenocracy should make decisions using only observational data and simple analysis based on statistics.  The algorithms must be free from human theories in order to eliminate any role for humans to make decisions.   If the decision algorithms included human theories, such as what may happen in the future, then those theories could be subject to deliberation and debate and thus open up the decision process to the political processes.

Because a pure dedomenocracy eliminates any human role in decision making, it must reject human theories to be part of the algorithms.   There would be nothing in the mechanism of dedomenocracy rule-making to prevent the society from drifting toward a culture of poverty as observed in Cuba and other communist regimes.    As society makes that shift, that shift will generate new data and the algorithms will make new rules to take advantage of opportunities (or to avoid hazards) suggested by that data.

A culture of poverty a possible end-state for a dedomenocracy.  It may even be an inevitable consequence of dedomenocracy.   As society adopts more delinquent behaviors, the government will make more rules to address the delinquencies.   As people adapt to avoid being targets of punishments of new rules, they will adopt the attitudes of hopelessness and expectation of government dependency.

Lacking access to human models that this might happen, the dedomenocracy is left only with actual observations to attempt to predict the future.  The observations will unlikely see this result coming for the same reason the communist countries didn’t see it coming.   The gradual progress toward a culture of poverty may even be seen as progress where the government may appropriate responses to current observations.   The ultimate end state just happened to be unfortunate.

Because a pure dedomenocracy does not permit human interference in decision-making, it does not have access to human models.   We can not design into a dedomenocracy a rule that attempts to avoid a culture of poverty because we are unlikely to come to a super-majority consensus of what that rule would be.  Such a rule would be subject to contentious debate just as in modern democracy.

One possible way for dedomenocracy to anticipate this result is if we can supply it with data from communist countries that did devolve into a culture of poverty.  Unfortunately, we do not have access the critical observation data of the progress toward that end result.  The successive decisions leading to the unfortunate result relied on human communication, often verbal or visually observed instead of recorded in a persistent form such as written records.    The informers, for example, probably relayed their information verbally, never to be written down at all.

There is no data to provide the early warning to a dedomenocracy that current decisions could be leading to an undesired result of a culture of poverty.   The first dedomenocracy must learn this lesson itself in order to collect the data that will inform future dedomenocracy to avoid this human tendency.

A culture of poverty may be inevitable in a dedomenocracy.  I am a little optimistic that the dedomenocracy may be able to work its way out of a culture of poverty once it occurs.  One property of a dedomenocracy is that it has no obligation to be consistent with earlier decisions or some human ideology.   It may be possible that a dedomenocracy can help in making a culture of poverty a temporary condition.   On the other hand, I’m only a little optimistic.   Once a culture of poverty takes hold, the population’s loss of enthusiasm and motivation will greatly hamper what a dedomenocracy can do.

A dedomenocracy may have an advantage in that the rules are automated from objective data and algorithms.    The population may find this more acceptable than the communist implementations where such rules come from a select group of human decision-makers.   I am not sure this makes much difference because the nature of daily life will be as lifeless as described in the above-referenced narrative of life in Cuba.

In recent posts on the Dedomenocratic Party, I suggested that our current government may already be experimenting with dedomenocracy.  In particular, the independent and largely unaccountable rule making in bureaucracies appear similar to dedomenocracy approaches.   They are making rules based on data of of some sort.  This has been going on for a while now.

If a dedomenocracy is destined to devolve into a culture of poverty, then we may be able to see that occurring within the current government.  Increasing evidence of a growing culture of poverty within our society may provide evidence of an growing implementation of dedomenocracy within our government.

As I mentioned, I think we are already experiencing dedomenocracy in our increasingly non-democratic bureaucratic regulations.   These regulations are increasingly impacting individual lives.   People know their lives are becoming constrained by rules from unaccountable bureaucracies such as those involving healthcare and labor laws.   They are experiencing the authoritarian conditions that could trigger a popular reaction to begin adopting behaviors and attitudes of the culture of poverty.

I see plenty of evidence in modern life that this is happening.   The attitudes of the culture of poverty are emerging as part of popular culture.   We just happen to benefit from a reserve of wealth that makes the “poverty” part of the description ridiculous.  Eventually that wealth reserve will become exhausted and what we will have left is the culture without anything left to spend.

On this blog site, I’ve been attempting to explain the current problem of declining workforce participation.  In the earlier posts, I suggested explanations of the abundance of non-work options to working.

This declining workplace participation is also consistent with a growing culture of poverty that happens to be occurring in a society with current access to great wealth.   People may be responding to the increasingly autocratic rule of government by feeling more hopeless about their individual control over the future.  That hopelessness is expressed by focusing on immediate gratification and an exclusive focus on the present moment with an expectation of dependency on the government if they need it in the future.

An authoritarian government denies individuals a sense of control over their future.   That loss of control makes viable a culture of resignation to living for instant gratification and living the present moment.    In our present government, that loss of control comes from authoritarian regulations coming from bureaucracies no longer answerable to democratic processes. These bureaucracies justify their authority on evidence (or data) instead of some ideology but the the affect on the population is the same.   Authoritarianism transfers control over people’s lives from the individual to the state.   The individual will make a rational decision to resign to this authority.

In increasingly regulated workplaces, any opportunity to avoid working will become increasingly attractive.   The declining workforce participation may be explained by this resignation to authority that denies individual autonomy in the workplace.

The declining workforce participation may be visible evidence of a degeneration of our own society into a broadly accepted culture of poverty similar to what we observe in Cuba today.


7 thoughts on “Economic motivation in dedomenocracy: avoiding culture of poverty

  1. This article gives another perspective of modern government. It describes the problem as a machine substitution of theology that:

    In other words, if it’s a machine, it can’t think of you as anything but a machine. Indeed, it can’t think at all. All it can do is to repeat the decisions and the words selected on its behalf previously and were programmed into its manuals and guidelines later. Now that the decisions and words have been selected, all that is left to do is to apply them mindlessly to the present situation.

    Although the author gives a different perspective on how this works out, we agree with the starting premise of a machine-source of decision-making. His concept is undoubtedly true especially for legacy bureaucratic processes that involve what a long-ago constructed look-up table of actions to apply to specific circumstances. I argue that this look-up table is more dynamically generated to adapt to new data. But in either case, the application of the action is automatic based on the presented conditions.

    Clearly this article objects to mindless bureaucracy as in:

    Deskocracy is not so much a state of mind as of mindlessness. It is conscienceless and soulless functional conformity. Do not expect from it anything like the humanizing works of love by which Christian are expected to make themselves known. For that reason and more, the welfare state, which is the bureaucratizing of mercy, can only be a nightmare, as its history has demonstrated.

    But this is as close as he gets to describing the nature of the nightmare. His point about the loss of personal identity is consistent with the legacy bureaucracies of printed manuals. I don’t see why this necessarily must be nightmarish although it may be insulting. In any case, the bureaucracies are moving toward a big data approach that will recognize and distinguish individuals. The decisions will be very personalized and specific to each individual. In contrast to his vision, a dedomenocracy recognizes individuals. However, similar to his vision, dedomenocracy uses machines instead of men to make decisions.

    The nightmarish result is not insult for not being recognized as an individual, but instead as a collective degeneration into a culture of poverty that relinquishes all individual initiative in exchange for 100% dependence on an impoverished state.

  2. This article suggests a different kind of pressure big data has for nurturing a culture of poverty.

    In this case, the perception of appropriate penalties harm from actions is such that the penalties do not scale with larger population of those harmed. In fact, the perceived appropriate penalty declines for larger numbers of those harmed.

    This would seem to encourage the practice of ever larger scale decision making and big data projects. When decisions go bad, the larger number of injuries will dampen the demands for penalties. Larger scale disasters result in the penalties that are more tolerable, less threatening to the business or government.

    In the context of my above post, this will promote a culture of poverty. The combination of the direct losses of large scale harms, and of the decreased interest in expecting a corrective penalty will encourage the population to change habits more consistent with declining standard of living.

    I am not really surprised by the study results. I find it somewhat intuitive, but I haven’t thought about it much in my thinking about big-data driven decision making. The bigger the scale of the decisions, the less interested people are in paying attention to the harms of bad decisions.

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