Deterministic World

Part 2. Society

3. Systems in Society

Earlier I outlined the idea of evolution as a force defining society and traditions, even the notion of 'good' and 'bad'. The systems view is closely related, and traces the intertwined cause-effect chains and cycles in our society. In a formally defined system, many interacting entities follow similar rules yet an outcome is unpredictable without actually simulating the interactions - ie it is not a consequence of the rules themselves but rather of how particular players follow the rules. Systems could be the structure of government, business and finance, stock markets, water and electricity grid, academia. In systems, identifying and controlling cycles is key. Self-reinforcing or runaway cycles will tend to arise from random perturbations, so they are expected to be the sole dominant drivers of all we see around us. These cycles are kept in check by other self-reinforcing cycles and influences that make them neutral rather than self-reinforcing at a certain level of prominence. In any call to revolution or change of the system by specific action, the question must be asked why and how the system's cycles were established - whether they are stable, whether they will re-emerge after revolution or modifications because the root causes yielding their emergence are still present, whether whatever it is replaced with is stable, and whether such a replacement is what will actually happen. Interestingly despite the fear of anarchy and apparent ease to break down a lawful system into chaos, predominantly the world is and has operated under stable rulers and organized systems since antiquity {assuming a nominal starting point of anarchy with the earliest humans}. The systems view tells us there is something in human nature which favors lawfulness and keeps anarchy at bay - perhaps a sense of fairness/retribution/justice and the equalizing nature of weapons/intelligence vs brute force. The two-party system is stable, originating without any particular precedent across many societies. Big companies "eating" smaller ones is also stable in capitalism, as is rich people earning more than poor people {this inequality is built into (at least) the economic principle of interest rates - have more money=make more money}. Bribes and favors are stable - a consequence of human fallibility and selfishness, they have been observed from ancient societies to modern ones. Bartering and market access are stable, due to benefits to both seller and buyer. Changing such stable systems by brute force is in poor judgement and will just lead to eventual reemergence, as indicated by examples throughout history (prohibition/fights on bribes/communism) so most "calls for action" [f1] must be viewed skeptically. Another untenable claim is finding an "ideal" system. All societal systems are "messy" but it is precisely this which makes them stable against the numerous and constant perturbations imposed by the world. Roads are "messy" compared to railroads, but they give great flexibility to the human driver to navigate around obstacles so the roads are stable; lab notebooks are messy compared to strictly-structured databases but they continue to be useful because they can easily handle exceptional/unusual cases; the law system is messy compared to a rigorous logical model of right/wrong but it readily adapts to the circumstances of real-world imperfect situations. Accepting that people will make errors inadvertently, systems must be capable of working despite these errors. Consider sentencing for a crime: an innocent person may be wrongly sentenced as guilty or a guilty person may be wrongly sentenced as innocent. It is impossible to remove all error so mistakes like above will be made, but it is possible to bias the error towards tending to make one mistake vs another. For instance, a society may choose to only sentence as guilty if there is evidence beyond doubt, but this will imply more guilty individuals will be set free, or vice versa. Changes to systems must be evaluated according to this principle. Idealistic claims like "no innocent people in jail" must be viewed critically.

What I referred to as "messy" systems could be stated as weakly-coupled systems: ones in which different parts do not have to operate in strict synchrony, ones which have freedom well beyond the bare minimum necessary for system function, and it is this freedom that makes them capable of handling exceptions robustly. Weak couplings mean failure or inaction of one part of a system does not prevent other parts from accomplishing their tasks. A train on a railroad can only go forward and backward, while a car on a road has considerably more freedom and can even go offroad entirely - the car's motion is only weakly coupled to the road markings. Lab notebooks allow for drawings/diagrams/equations/stapled pages which is more freedom than a typed and structured database entry - what the experimenter writes down is only weakly coupled to the paper structure. The law system is designed to handle cases of differing amounts and qualities of evidence while still trying to be consistent with earlier decisions, so a sentencing is only weakly coupled to all the specifics of the evidence. Such use of weak coupling is a feature in all complex systems that are designed to be fail-safe: a car's windshield wiper motor is only weakly coupled to the drivetrain, so failure of one does not influence the other. Strongly coupled systems operate very consistently and more optimally (towards its goals) than weakly coupled ones, but they expose more failure points so are not likely to be stable in the "real world".

I've already alluded to processes/features that "arise" in a system that is set up and capable of sustaining them, such as defects in crystals, robbers and diseases and other non-idealities; competition between different 'modes' making any single 'perfect' mode unstable and a whole set of diverse modes stable, just like trees, despite the amount of evolutionary time spent on earth, retain a variety even within a single forest - there hasn't been a single species that is an ultimate champion, because if it were then any species with a slight difference would gain an advantage and outcompete it. [f2] Such a constant state of competition/dynamic equilibrium is seen everyday. Here I would like to be more explicit about the example of vacancies in crystals, or why crystals aren't perfect even though that is the lowest-energy form. The key is that atoms have thermal energy and there are a lost of atoms in a real crystal, so effectively (by thermodynamic ensemble) different atomic configurations are always attempted, and in a big crystal somewhere or other a vacancy will arise near a surface just by thermal accident. Indeed hot materials have more vacancies. Once a vacancy arises, it may be a local decrease in energy for it to move into the body of the crystal from its surface, at which point it may be diffusively "trapped" for a long time. But of course other vacancies will diffuse out to the surface and disappear, so there is always a dynamic equilibrium. This is a physical mehanism of the "entropy cost" of a vacancy, and similar reasoning may be applied to non-idealities in society like robbing or lying, which carry a social cost (punishment) but nonetheless occur in a big enough/agitated enough population.

My views on systems are by no means complete or even definitive [f3], but there seem to be features of systems which are relevant in describing their functioning and nature:

What is a system? It is an interconnected set of physical objects. We find that, the way our laws of physics work, it is possible for the 'information' in a given spatio-temporally bounded area of space to affect/exchange with the 'information' of a distant set. The information here does not blindly disperse to all neighbors, but follows a definite path of influence depending on the physical laws and the arrangement of the system. A system diagram, as defined here, outlines these paths of influence, and this forms the underlying physical reality/invariant of such diagrams. For example, a wire can serve as a coupling of voltage/current between two electrical elements, because of its insulation and spatial extents disallowing any other possible couplings. We can use different variables to describe what goes on in the system: voltage/current/resistance/conductance/fields or anything else, which will change the mathematical laws but not what the system "actually does": what cannot change is the amount and types of/channels of coupling. No matter what variables we use or how we interpret the system, the information will not be coupled by the air around the wire or by some faraway arbitrary atoms, but by the wire itself. This is the empirical content of a system diagram. We will distinguish two physical entities in a system diagram: objects/nodes and connections/edges. And also two types of conceptual entities: properties/constants and parameters/variables. A connection signifies information coupling: it may be drawn from one object to another, or between multiple objects, and signifies a mutual inter-relation of some subset of the variables associated with each connected object. The connection both signifies the presence of information (variable) exchange and defines its specific nature (a mathematical equation makes for an easy illustrative example, but it could as well be a conceptual idea or verbal description, extending to more abstract or social systems, as long as it is explicit and specific and objective). It is useful to distinguish between amplified (non-coupled, one-way) connections and direct (bidirectional, coupled, two-way) connections:

[A] -> [B]  amplified connection
[A] <-> [B] direct connection

It should be distinguished that two amplified connections do not equal a direct connection, as the former has an inherent time delay and ability to vary the nature of coupling by external influence. An amplified connection always requires energy dissipation, as outlined under Couplings in Information Theory, while a direct connection does not. The resemblance of the latter to electrical circuit diagrams may be coincidental but it is not meaningless: an electrical diagram indeed outlines a system of bidirectional influences along wires. The amplified connection is mathematically simple: B=A, but the equality sign is bidirectional so we should be more explicit with an assignment sign: B<-A or A->B. This makes it explicit that A must be known first, and B has no impact on this process. The direct connections can similarly be expressed with an equal sign: A=B but here both A and B are allowed to change. To be more explicit about what happens, we express this as a matrix assignment using a transform matrix Tm on both A and B:


While connections signify information movement, objects signify information storage and evolution/processing. Each object must have at least one variable associated with it (each variable must be a physicalle measurable/definite quantity), and also some 'rules' for what that variable affects. If a system is modified externally such that connections are altered but its information amount is unaffected, the system's evolution may be modeled continuously before and after the change. However if the information (storage) amount is changed, the system cannot be taken through such a change with continuous evolution - information must be supplied by or lost to the "external world" in this case. What do we make of external-world influences on a system?

Is an open system possible? I think it is an oxymoron: the defining feature of a system is its interconnectivity, within itself and with the outer world. An open system is affected by the outer world but does not affect it back, which is physically not allowed (as outlined in Information Theory). In defining an open system, information is provided by us to run the simulation, and the result is read. An open system monotonically approaches thermal equilibrium and can more appropriately be called a relation or coupling than a system. Thus to be concrete, all variables in a system *must be* 2-way coupled, both affected by and affecting other parts of the system. One-way couplings turn a variable into a constant and thus delineate a system boundary from the external world: "here I don't want to consider the real world changing this part of the system as that gets too complex, so I will assume it to just be constant for finding out what I need of the system model". [f4]

The way we differentiate variables and constants is that variables must be coupled to other parts of the system and thus will eventually be affected by the system itself as the system evolves. Constants on the other hand are unable to be modified by the system itself, no matter what its state. Constants thus include both non-alterable connections (ie system structure) and rules of objects (ie how a thermostat operates), as well as numeric constants (ie set temperature of thermostat). For a general theory, we should allow also for the existence of similar entities that can be affected by the system itself: conditional connections, conditional rules, and numeric variables should all be grouped as "system variables". A common application of system theory relies on us (external agents) modifying system constants and tracking system evolution. Consider the thermostat system:

[Bath (temperature)] -> [Thermostat] -> [Heater] <-> ...

I adjust the thermostat setpoint externally and see what happens. But we can go a step further and quantify the influence of me on the thermostat set point. This will change the set point from a constant to a variable (a reminder that a variable must be 2-way coupled while a constant must not be coupled):

[Bath (temperature)] -> [Thermostat] -> [Heater] <-> ...
					 -> [Me reading temp] -> [Thermostat]

We could go further and define why I pick a given temperature as a function of how I feel/what I am trying to do, and eventually this process replaces constants with variables but gets ridiculously complex. At some level, I will not know all the variables required to simulate the system, and may find it to be chaotic - a small change in some tiny unknown variable affects everything, and I have no idea what to expect anymore. So it is not always preferred for practical uses to have the most complex system diagram - it is an intuitive "art" (based on practice and statistical inference) to know when to stop adding complexity. Sometimes this is impossible - to truly simulatie the system we actually need to know all the minute variables which are impractical to actually measure; such systems are commonly called random: dice rolls, lottery/bingo ball tumbling, card shuffles, stock market {at least for those without privileged information access}. Here system theory can still explain "how", but cannot predict "what" will be in the future. So we see that the distinction between variables and constants is really a choice on where to bound the system under study and consider it independent of the "real world" outside. The ultimate constants are the laws of physics, but if we expand our system to that level it will either include the whole world at subatomic definition or will have to be assumed well-decoupled from the world (which is what we practically achieve in physics experiments, such as an ion in an ion trap) but thus adding its own set of constants to the usual laws of physics to define the nature of the decoupling. For big systems of interest, the laws will be far "above" the laws of physics and thus even the "constants" may all be readily changeable in theory.

This is a useful point for system manipulation and control: the system model may be affected by altering either variables or constants. This distinction arises because the latter change, "changing the rules of the game", has an effect independent of the actual state of the system and can in principle be much more impactful than simply changing a variable in the system. Of course even here the distinction is arbitrary: zoom out far enough and constants become variables, so perhaps this shouldn't be taken too seriously - variable changes can be very powerful indeed, such as the introduction of neutrons to a fissile assembly. The power lies in discovering the least-effort physical change/manipulation that leads to the desired result. Consider again the bath thermostat system:

[Bath (temperature)] -> [Thermostat] -> [Heater] <-> ...

I want to change the bath temperature, which I see is directly affected by heater temperature. Heater temperature has a 1-way coupling to the thermostat, so I cannot change it naively. The thermostat is affected by the bath temperature, so I could change that directly - but this takes lots of effort and is a direct change: I have no amplification of influence, and perhaps even a supression if the thermostat works against me. Perhaps I can break some connections: unplug the heater, and thus eventually achieve my desired temperature. Can I be smarter? I can alter the "constant" setpoint of the thermostat, but perhaps for some reason I cannot. Note the difference: if I alter the setpoint, the system itself will evolve to my desired end state; this is way less effort than trying to directly change the bath temp by myself since it uses the existing power of the heater and control parameters of the thermostat in my favor. Altering the setpoint is a more elegant change than say inserting an external heater/chiller. If I can't do it? A more detailed system diagram may help:

[Bath (temperature)] <-> [Thermocouple] <-> [Thermocouple amplifier] -> [Thermostat] -> [Heater] <-> ...

By adding more elements to the system, I now see more points of control: the single coupling of bath -> thermostat now explicitly includes a thermocouple so I could adjust the temperature only around the thermocouple with some clever insulation, or I could recognize the electrical signals going into the thermocouple amplifier and modify those as desired, to achieve the system state I want even if I cannot change the thermostat setpoint. Recognizing that the heater uses electric power, I can change the connection there by adding a relay, and thus also affect the system, but to a more limited extent. Lots of effort can lead to unimpressive results or little effort can lead to huge results, all depending on exactly where the effort is directed within the system, this is the power of systems thinking. The amount of influence that a certain change can bring about should be mathematically quantifiable and can be used to find "points of power" in the system - ways to control it elegantly. The tools, machines, and electronics we use are invariably set up to place us at the point of power. What about political and social structures in society? Perhaps the reason capitalism has proven more effective than slavery is that people are happy to earn a paycheck and spend it on what they want, so they willingly go to work whereas under slavery even if they had the same goods they are unwilling to work and must be forced to do so, wasting valuable resources and time - an elegant vs inelegant way of controlling a system to get the desired result of people spending their lives at work.

How is the idea of 'elegant' system control used in society around us? Governments at the highest levels are proficient in this sort of control, they have to in order to be able to call themselves governments. Old spying and political tactics may seem to be made obsolete by new technologies, but ultimately societies are made of people - no matter how well I encrypt my message, there will be a person reading it on the other end in fully unencrypted form so he can understand it. The sort of power to keep stable societies, to understand people, is what I will call "psychological advantage". All our wants and desires are in the mind, and the mind can be controlled - such is the nature of psychological advantage. These ideas come from a reading of Men Who Stare at Goats, a text about strange CIA activities - conspiracy theories mixed in with real "evidence" such as accounts of army/CIA music blasting used for subliminal control. The premise of the book is that some people in the army psy-ops claim anything is possible: walking through walls, being invisible, staring a goat to death, psychic mind-reading and divination. And this is an intriguing idea: I would normally associate this stuff with quacks, but seeing the army's support in this really makes me tempted to think there is truth in such abilities, perhaps I can even develop them! If these were real abilities, it would be advantageous for the army to have priority in developing them, and to spread the idea that such methods are useless and fake so that most people don't try and those who do are already considered outcasts and not taken seriously. In a way, the best method to cover up real UFOs is to make everyone believe the reports are from crazy lunatics, cementing the non-reality of the concept (it wouldn't be surprising if the intelligence departments actively supported UFO conspiracists, as they would draw attention off the real situation of experimental aircraft testing).

The scientific method has an answer to prediction of the future - it is possible and real, but requires calculations - this is a bit of a cop-out unless we define calculations, which for now we'll define as active evolution/observation of a model system that is smaller in scale than the real one (such that the evolution takes place faster - thus being predictive). The other crucial ingredient for future prediction is thus data - all relevant data to create a scale model. So if I throw you a ball, your brain will create a 3D model and mentally simulate the path - the model being on a scale of the brain size and evolving rapidly by neurons firing vs the slow large-scale motion of the ball, thus the model is solved first in time and you can move your hand in just the right place to catch the ball - there is no way around such calculations if catching from sight alone is required. Fortune telling, having visions, reading tea leaves/tarot cards, do these have any validity or are they just obvious demonstrations of the Forer/Barnum effect [f5]? I side with the latter, since if they worked this would be evidence of faster-than-light computation, something prohibited by definition (as it would lead to both infinite computing power and a system being able to simulate itself). We can also verify the ineffectiveness of such predictions by entropy analysis - can they really give us new and unexpected information, or are they rehashes of things the person already knows? Could anyone predict an atomic bomb blast without ever having heard of such a bomb's existence? Why is it that all our gods have a human form as do most movie aliens? I think the evidence and state of the world (the leading scientists use real data, not visions, and it works - all the time; thousands of years of people trying all sorts of pseudoscientific approaches hasn't even come close to the effectiveness of science) show that divination by purely psychic means is not possible. Still it is possible to train the human mind to subconsciously make predictions - as the brain is a powerful computer that processes meaning, given the proper (and even a bunch of useless) data, it might well arrive at a possibility that is likely to be true, even without the predictor being aware of why or how they arrived at this prediction - a mysterious vision for lack of a better word.

Such a skill might be known as intuition - an idea of what will happen "just because it feels so" - and its development requires both an ability to be aware of and to process large amounts of data (to be observant, to see things that seem obvious or are easy to miss/to forget) and also enough knowledge about what is to be predicted (if a combat situation - combat experience is key; if state of the energy market - knowledge of current state of affairs and "rules of the game"). In other words, an intuitive ability to perform a large scale system simulation to predict the system's state before it actually arrives there. This is how we can easily control animals and living beings less intelligent than us, even without any cages or barriers - they are bounded by invisible walls of our intellectual superiority. This is probably taken advantage of for "invisibility" mental abilities - most people spend their waking hours focused on a single task at hand (becoming unaware of the rest of the world through such focus), and it is difficult or impossible to "see the big picture" and then keep it in mind when so focused on a given task - by knowing how to appropriately blend in one can then become truly invisible, seen without awareness {consider the [basketball-passing video]}. This works not only in camouflage, but in social engineering - the security company guy is the one who should check/replace the security system, and few will question whether he is really authorized to do so. Then we can get to subliminal messages - the things seen but forgotten, or heard but anaware (as in MP3 encoding - conscious awareness only hears the louder tone but unconsciously all tones are processed) have a subconscious impact. This is not terribly strong - not sombie-like control - but still scientifically measurable as a slight change in behavior [Dehaenae]. Having an almost spartan, purely functional, lifestyle helps achieve the bigger scale view by eliminating all distractions; perhaps this state is what is achieved by meditation. I think such an ability is a large part of what the book claims the army was trying to achieve by making people think of the impossible - walking through walls - as possible: the brain really does have amazing potential if used effectively, but such use is far from obvious. I have met only two people who seemed to have a child-like ability to question the obvious and make their own rules; these people inspired me by their character alone. They were not afraid to try out new ideas that sounded crazy, and even seemed to seek them out.

Psychological advantage allows for a high level of control and indeed "doing the impossible". This is because people (and animals - we are told to not run away from a bear, this is a psychological tactic that has real consequences for our survival even against a huge animal) do what their brain tells them to do, and if you know how to tell the brain what to do, or even predict what it will do, then you can control systems much larger than physically possible by force. In psychological advantage, you make the brains of people/animals work towards your goal; not merely fitting in or being invisible, but affecting others' perceptions (perhaps outside of their awareness) so that they themselves choose to do what you want. [f6] At any moment there are countless things I could do - bite off my arm, scream loudly, jump out the window, play music, send an email, try to touch the ceiling, lay naked outside, climb up to the roof, hide under the bed... Yet my brain chooses one fairly coherent action/path, based on both sensory survival (like not eating my arm) and on my values/goals (like enjoying writing articles such as this and finding it a worthwhile activity). For psychological advantage the values/goals can be adjusted to be in line with some purpose, or the environment can be adjusted such that the already-desired goals require a certain action set. In the first case, the parent teaches the child the association between success, good life, and getting As in school so the child wants to study hard. In the second, the parent says the child gets a paycheck/gift for each A or similar negative reinforcement - this is classical conditioning so I won't cover it further [Skinner]. The environment can be altered more subtly and less explicitly though, leading to a similar subconscious effect: for instance many iphone "intuitive" features/animations/shortcuts (such as automatic volume level for multiple headphones) are not consciously noted [f7] but still factor into people's evaluation of the phone and serve to maintain its popularity amidst a competitive and copycat market. After trying the iphone, other phones just don't feel as good - it's hard to explain exactly why but something is just different - this is subconscious alteration of the environment and can be effective as psychological advantage.

The government certainly realizes this - since governments and even whole nations are run by networks of people as decision makers, such manipulations can have very big implications, turning countries into machines to do as one desires. In slavery, one has control over the slaves but at high cost - the slaves will try their best to avoid work and escape. In psychological advantage the cost is low and the results are self-reinforcing: with a proper system of rewards, the slaves will want to work and even fight over who can work the hardest, making social outcasts of those who are "lazy". This has an eerie resemblance to the modern "glass ceiling" capitalism, and no wonder the "successful" countries are the ones who use this system - it is after all more productive than coercive or bureaucratic/bribe-plagued nations as people agree in their need to be productive - though this is taken as "holy" and never questioned. Yet beyond such global world order concerns, I believe the US does have knowledge of and uses psychological advantage in its operations. First is the popularity of US products - Starbucks, burger king, mcdonalds, most every Hollywood movie, music pop hits, video games - all these can be found internationally practically everywhere and are well-liked by the local populace {based on my own travel experiences in 8 countries}. Why is it that there is a McDonalds in Kazakhstan but not a Pchelsky in the USA? The exchange here is certainly not symmetric - American culture infiltrates and does not accumulate/accomodate; yet it is the locals who visit McDonalds - they find it fashionable whereas no one's heard of Pchelsky in the US so no one even calls for its opening. US products are seen as fashionable, the US is the "cool kid" everyone tries to copy - but why? It's not that McDonalds is particularly tasty or good, its popularity stems from its first foray into fast food concept and global advertising of such - psychological advantage; getting people excited about the brand name and offering a consistent experience across cities and now even countries. It's really in the name - "McDonalds" tells me I can go in and get a burger with fries, "Pchelkin" doesn't tell me anything as I haven't heard of it before - the known brand is a safe and secure choice, the unknown a mystery with uncertain levels of quality/service/price, so I will more comfortably choose what I already know. Starbucks benefits from a similar brand recognition effect, but also there is a psychological advantage in offering (and spearheading) a "coffee shop" environment which is unique and apparently attractive as a product - it's not really the coffee that makes people interested, but the name, the environment, and the coffee as a side effect. Still none of this explains why it is considered fashionable/desirable for a highrise in China to house a Starbucks instead of a Chinese version of same - such popularity to me seems unfair and arbitrary, but is decidedly a psychological advantage for the US - one that has tremendous impact on its status in the world economy, its GDP, and the value of the dollar. If only by circumstance, the US has emerged as victor not in physical wars but in the psychological world order. It would be wise of the government to maintain this, but such may be too conspiracy-theory-minded.

If not explicitly involved in international affairs, psychological advantage is surely used domestically. The modern spy will not just assimilate and idly collect information, but subtly manipulate and affect the actual proceedings of the organization, to reach a desired goal or gain (willful/authorized) access to more information. With psychological advantage there is barely any need for force or intimidation, with appropriately targeted interactions people will go out of their way to share information with someone they trust. Beyond intelligence gathering, the government can use psychological advantage in public media. I think it's very certain that government has an influence in Hollywood and entertainment, of the sort that advised a specific recommendation in AES that was not understood until mathematical proofs were found years later. It would not surprise me if a "psychological control board" makes subtle alterations to movies, and not-so-subtle votes on what movies will even get made and what exposure they will receive. For instance, misrepresentation of spy/police/terrorist activities, arguably to make the movie/show more exciting and appropriate for the screen, also has the side effect of providing ineffective information to would-be criminals and terrorists, and of reaffirming the inevitable victory of the "good" government, that the "bad guys" have nowhere to hide. Since such media may be most people's biggest interaction with the concept of police work/spying, the representations in the media are powerful factors indeed. By information theory, any authors or artists who write a spy novel can only use what they have learned about spying, and if the only information readily available is from 'controlled media', derived works of art (donwstream from 'real' information sources) will also misrepresent the phenomenon in a consistent way, allowing for tracing of influences. The real police force would suffer if the fake one on TV was made to look incompetent - and not in a funny way. So movies regularly show how cool and powerful the US military is - with jet fighter pilots and gunmen always shown in a positive light, undoubtedly encouraging young people to join/root for the armed forces to do cool stuff - all subconsciously and covertly but ever-present and real. It should not be overlooked that in a large country many ideas and movements will spring up "organically" [f8], and the government (or any entity that can make such decisions) may choose to subtly support the ones that contribute to their desired goals - there is no need for a top-down creation of ideas (say, a 'secret board' forcing a director to make a particular film - this is rudimentary and prone to public outcry; vs picking select movies out of the thousands made each year and giving them special attention in the press - the director authentically wanted to make the movie and the viewers really chose to watch it, the influence is invisible). Additional power in this way of psychological control of public opinion lies in realizing the typical discussion topics for friends or coworkers: sports, movies, news. Manipulating the media sources of typical discussion topics may manipulate only some individuals, but in talking with others, the effect of the manipulation will spread through the whole group - now originating from a real live person who is close to their friend group.

Indeed the spread of ideas is an important aspect of society as a system. Diseases spread from person to person and are seen as negative, undesirable things. But nature doesn't see things as good or bad - a disease is then something that is contagious, self-spreading, and affecting a person temporarily or even leaving permanent marks. It doesn't have to be alive (such as a virus), the key is contagious spreading and self-sustaining reproduction. If we look through this lens at communication, essentially all of language is a bunch of "brain viruses" - having been exposed to a new word, we may use it for a while then forget it eventually, in the process of using it spreading it to other people. Another example is catchy music we share with others, or sayings/poems/jokes/idioms/limerics to the same effect. This is how 'fads' and 'memes' spread and live on amongst social networks. What determines whether something becomes 'contagious', whether a video becomes 'viral' (so appropriately named)? I don't have the answer but this is another factor for psychological advantage. Consider the fast spread of news on Twitter - clearly a search for knowledge and explanations, quite spontaneously (I didn't know or care about a hurricane until it showed up on Twitter, and now I want to know its every detail as soon as possible - why? To feel in control, as if I have all the explanations, although I am only a distant and not-well-aware observer). Perhaps sharing viral ideas leads to a sort of social reward - this person shared the video, the video is cool/popular (by the sake of its many shares, more than anything, but likely also having something to do with content - perhaps being particularly unusual/memorable/funny and appealing to childlike thinging/views/emotions through simplified displays - for whatever reason, straightforward, exaggerated emotions along with easy visual cues and a clear (not necessarily correct but coherent) explanation are appealing - even to adults), thus the person sharing is now also seen as cool, and this may offer subtle future social rewards which will result in a sort of classical conditioning indirectly. The curiosity instinct, while strongest in children is still strong in adults (though perhaps repressed or atrophied amidst "more practical" concerns/realities of everyday living and repetitive work day experience - the ideal capitalist employee) so this may contribute to spontaneous sharing of informational content/videos or even factoids and trivia - whether right or wrong, as long as it is interesting - perhaps explaining the fascination with gossip and such "juicy" info that may not have much to do with the person's life concerns nor even with the actual nature of events/what's going on.

[f1] such as saving wild animals. we are not gods. and if we were, why would we save wild animals? which ones are to be saved and which left to fend for themselves now at a relative disadvantage?

[f2] on a bigger picture, there seems to be no true stability in evolution. Even though trees as a category have been stable for millions of years, their nature/appearance has evolved during that time and moreover, they contributed to the evolution of animals so even the whole variety of trees/plants does not make for a closed permanently self-contained biosystem. Perhaps such a thing is impossible.

[f3] for additional original insights into systems in society, see [Murder Drugs and Engineering]

[f4] a constant here does not have to be a numeric constant, it can well be a function of time or some other parameter; the defining feature of a constant is that the system itself cannot affect it

[f5] this is when overly-vague statements like "you have a caring personality but may easily get hurt if you are too open with others" are taken by the listener as applying to himself by mentally adding in his own information/memories to make it personal

[f6] This is how psychopaths establish their positions of power and influence: because of their improved (conscious or not) understanding/abilities in social interactions, they can get other people to do what they want without those people even realizing it. There is no way to counter this without an improved social intelligence, so the dumb/mentally deficient people will always be susceptible to such manipulation.

[f7] I was surprised how many people seem to not notice that the Windows 7 taskbar and window frame are transparent while the latter Windows versions are not

[f8] this may be seen on a small scale in a protest group (readily verifiable in videos of such gatherings): one person may randomly come up with some chant/action and shout it out, and if enough other people feel the chant is appropriate they will join in, eventually the whole group settles on a single chant, this will continue until enough of the group grows tired of the chant at which point another one may be taken up. A similar phenomenon happens with clapping: in a concert where it is unfashionable to clap between movements, any random applause will largely not be propagated by others and decay, while at the end of the performance everyone is in agreement about clapping so 'random' starting applause gets amplified to include the whole audience

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