Economics

The Tragedy of the Commons: How Elinor Ostrom Solved One of Life’s Greatest Dilemmas

The design principles for solving the tragedy of the commons can be applied to all groups

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By David Sloan Wilson

As an evolutionary biologist who received my PhD in 1975, I grew up with Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons,” published in Science magazine in 1968. His parable of villagers adding too many cows to their common pasture captured the essence of the problem that my thesis research was designed to solve. The farmer who added an extra cow gained an advantage over other farmers in his village but it also led to an overgrazed pasture. The biological world is full of similar examples in which individuals who behave for the good of their groups lose out in the struggle for existence with more self-serving individuals, resulting in overexploited resources and other tragedies of non-cooperation.

Is the so-called tragedy of the commons ever averted in the biological world and might this possibility provide solutions for our own species? One plausible scenario is natural selection at the level of groups. A selfish farmer might have an advantage over other farmers in his village, but a village that somehow solved the tragedy of the commons would have a decisive advantage over other villages. Most species are subdivided into local populations at various scales, just as humans are subdivided into villages, cities and nations. If natural selection between groups (favoring cooperation) can successfully oppose natural selection within groups (favoring non-cooperation), then the tragedy of the commons can be averted for humans and non-human species alike.

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At the time that Hardin published his article and I was working on my thesis, this possibility had been considered and largely rejected. A book titled Adaptation and Natural Selection, written by evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and published in 1966, was on its way to becoming a modern classic. Williams described between-group selection as theoretically possible but almost invariably weak compared to within-group selection. By his account, attempts to explain evolutionary adaptations as “for the good of the group” reflected sloppy and wishful thinking. Hardin’s article reflected the same pessimism about avoiding the tragedy of the commons other than by top-down regulation. My interest in rethinking the plausibility of group selection placed me in a very small group of heretics (see Okasha 2006, Sober and Wilson 1998, Wilson and Wilson 2007, and Wilson 2015 for more on the controversy over group selection, which in my opinion has now been mostly resolved).

Evolutionary theory’s individualistic turn coincided with individualistic turns in other areas of thought. Economics in the postwar decades was dominated by rational choice theory, which used individual self-interest as a grand explanatory principle. The social sciences were dominated by a position known as methodological individualism, which treated all social phenomena as reducible to individual-level phenomena, as if groups were not legitimate units of analysis in their own right (Campbell 1990). And UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became notorious for saying during a speech in 1987 that “there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.” It was as if the entire culture had become individualistic and the formal scientific theories were obediently following suit.

Unbeknownst to me, another heretic named Elinor Ostrom was also challenging the received wisdom in her field of political science. Starting with her thesis research on how a group of stakeholders in southern California cobbled together a system for managing their water table, and culminating in her worldwide study of common-pool resource (CPR) groups, the message of her work was that groups are capable of avoiding the tragedy of the commons without requiring top-down regulation, at least if certain conditions are met (Ostrom 1990, 2010). She summarized the conditions in the form of eight core design principles: 1) Clearly defined boundaries; 2) Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs; 3) Collective choice arrangements; 4) Monitoring; 5) Graduated sanctions; 6) Fast and fair conflict resolution; 7) Local autonomy; 8) Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule-making authority (polycentric governance). This work was so groundbreaking that Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009.

I first met Lin (as she preferred to be called) just a few months before she was awarded the prize, at a workshop held in Florence, Italy, titled “Do Institutions Evolve?” (recounted in Wilson 2011a). Similar events were taking place all over the world in 2009 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. Multilevel selection theory, which envisions natural selection operating on a multi-tier hierarchy of units, had become more widely accepted by then, especially with respect to human cultural evolution, making me much in demand as a speaker. I had also cofounded a think tank called the Evolution Institute2 that formulates public policy from an evolutionary perspective, giving me a strong interest in the workshop topic. I had become somewhat familiar with Lin’s work but having the opportunity to talk with her at length had a transformative impact.

I quickly realized that Lin’s core design principle approach dovetailed with multilevel selection theory, which my fellow-heretics and I had worked so hard to revive. Her approach is especially pertinent to the concept of major evolutionary transitions, whereby members of groups become so cooperative that the group becomes a higher-level organism in its own right. This idea was first proposed by cell biologist Lynn Margulis (1970) to explain how nucleated cells evolved from symbiotic associations of bacteria. It was then generalized during the 1990s to explain other major transitions, such as the rise of the first bacterial cells, multicellular organisms, eusocial insect colonies and human evolution (Maynard Smith and Szathmary 1995, 1999).

Hunter-gatherer societies are famously egalitarian, not because everyone is nice, but because members of a group can collectively suppress bullying and other self-aggrandizing behaviors within their ranks – the defining criterion of a major evolutionary transition (Boehm 1993, 1999, 2011). With disruptive competition within groups held largely in check, succeeding as a group became the main selective force in human evolution. The entire package of traits regarded as distinctively human – including our ability to cooperate in groups of unrelated individuals, our ability to transmit learned information across generations, and our capacity for language and other forms of symbolic thought – can be regarded as forms of physical and mental teamwork made possible by a major evolutionary transition.

Lin’s design principles (DP) had “major evolutionary transition” written all over them. Clearly defined boundaries (DP1) meant that members knew they were part of a group and what the group was about (e.g., fisherman with access to a bay or farmers managing an irrigation system). Proportional equivalence of costs and benefits (DP2) meant that members had to earn their benefits and couldn’t just appropriate them. Collective choice arrangements (DP3) meant that group members had to agree upon decisions so nobody could be bossed around. Monitoring (DP4) and graduated sanctions (DP5) meant that disruptive self-serving behaviors could be detected and punished. Fast and fair conflict resolution (DP6) meant that the group would not be torn apart by internal conflicts of interest. Local autonomy (DP7) meant that the group had the elbow room to manage its own affairs. Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule making authority (DP8) meant that everything regulating the conduct of individuals within a given group also was needed to regulate conduct among groups in a multi group population.

The concordance between Lin’s core design principle approach and multilevel selection theory had three major implications. First, it placed the core design principle approach on a more general theoretical foundation. Lin’s “Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD)” framework emanated from political science and she was an early adopter of economic game theory, but her main case for the design principle approach was the empirical database that she compiled for common-pool resource groups around the world, as described in her most influential book Governing the Commons (Ostrom 1990). Multilevel selection theory showed how the core design principle approach follows from the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in all species and from our own evolutionary history as a highly cooperative species.

Second, because of its theoretical generality, the core design principle approach is likely to apply to a much broader range of human groups than those attempting to manage common-pool resources (CPRs). Almost any group whose members must work together to achieve a common goal is vulnerable to self-serving behaviors and should benefit from the same principles. An analysis of business groups, churches, voluntary associations and urban neighborhoods should yield the same results as Lin’s analysis of CPR groups.

Third, the core design principle approach can provide a practical framework for improving the efficacy of groups in the real world. It should be possible for almost any kind of group to assess itself with respect to the design principles, address shortcomings, and function better as a result. This prospect was especially appealing to me as president of the Evolution Institute, since I was now actively engaged in formulating and implementing public policy from an evolutionary perspective.

Lin inspired me to begin several projects in parallel with each other. One was to collaborate with her and her postdoctoral associate Michael Cox to write an academic article, “Generalizing the Core Design Principle for the Efficacy of Groups” that established the three major implications listed above for an academic audience (Wilson, Ostrom and Cox 2013). Michael was the lead author of a 2010 article that evaluated the core design principle approach for the literature on CPR groups that had accumulated since Lin’s original analysis (Cox et al. 2010). Our article was published in a special issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization titled “Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy.” Both the article and the special issue should be consulted for more on the theoretical framework that underpins the design principle approach.

In addition, I started to use the design principle approach in projects that involved working with real-world groups in Binghamton, New York. One was a collaboration with the City of Binghamton and United Way of Broome County called “Design Your Own Park,” which used the opportunity to turn a neglected space into a neighborhood park. Neighborhood groups that formed to create a park would be coached in the core design principles and start to manage the affairs of their neighborhood in other respects. This project led to the creation of four neighborhood parks—and their groups—in our city (Wilson 2011b).

The second project was a collaboration with the Binghamton City School District to create a “school within a school” for at-risk youth called the Regents Academy (Wilson, Kaufmann, and Purdy 2011). This was our most ambitious and best documented project because we were able to employ the gold standard of scientific assessment, the randomized control trial, which randomly assigns participants into an experimental group and a control group to identify significant variables that might affect outcomes. To the best of its ability, the Regents Academy implemented the eight core design principles and two auxiliary design principles deemed to be important in a learning context (a relaxed and playful atmosphere and short-term rewards for long-term learning goals). Not only did the Regents Academy students vastly outperform the comparison group, but they even performed on a par with the average high school student on the state-mandated Regents exam (see Wilson, Kauffman and Purdy 2011 for details). This is a strong indication that the design principle approach can be generalized beyond CPR groups and can be used as a practical framework for improving the efficacy of groups in our everyday lives.

The third project was a collaboration with a number of religious congregations in Binghamton to reflect upon the core design principles in relation to their faith and social organization. These conversations did not lead to a formal effort to change practices but they were invaluable for exploring how the success of religious groups can be understood in terms of the design principles approach.

All of these projects were instructive and broadly confirmed the relevance of the core design principle approach for any group whose members must work together to achieve a common purpose. They also showed how the design principles can be sadly lacking in some groups, such as disadvantaged neighborhoods and public schools. It is important to remember that Ostrom was able to derive the core design principles for CPR groups because they varied in how well the design principles were implemented. Some did well without needing to be taught, while others did poorly and might benefit from some coaching. Based on my own projects, I became convinced that all groups are likely to face similar challenges in implementing the core design principles.

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Sadly, Lin died of cancer in June 2012. I was with her only a few months before at a workshop, “Rules as Genotypes in Cultural Evolution,” which we organized together and hosted at her Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, at Indiana University. She was simultaneously trying to care for her aging husband Vincent, satisfy the worldwide demand for speaking appearances, manage her projects and care for herself. I am grateful to be among the many who were touched by her and proud to contribute to her legacy by helping to generalize the core design principle approach and make it available to any group whose members must work together to achieve shared goals.*

Adapted from Patterns of commoning, co-edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich.

2016 October 29


*PROSOCIAL is the first Internet platform that enables any group, anywhere in the world, to evaluate itself and increase its efficacy based on a fusion of the core design principle approach and evidence-based methods from the applied behavioral sciences.

References

Boehm, Christopher. 1993. “Egalitarian Society and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy.” Current Anthropology, 34:227 – 254.

———. 1999. Hierarchy in the Forest: Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Human Altruism. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

———. 2011. Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. New York: Basic Books.

Campbell, Donald T. 1990. “Levels of Organization, Downward Causation, and the Selection-Theory Approach to Evolutionary Epistemology.” In G. Greenberg & E. Tobach, editors, Theories of the Evolution of Knowing, 1 – 17. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cox, M., G. Arnold & S. Villamayor-Tomas. 2010. “A Review of Design Principles for Community-based Natural Resource Management.” Ecology and Society. 15.

Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science. 162:1243-1248.

Margulis, Lynn. 1970. Origin of Eukaryotic cells. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Maynard Smith, John, & E. Szathmary. 1995. The Major Transitions of Life. New York: W.H. Freeman.

———. 1999. The Origins of Life: From the Birth of Life to the Origin of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Okasha, Samir. 2006. Evolution and the Levels of Selection. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2010. “Polycentric Systems for Coping with Collective Action and Global Environmental Change.” Global Environmental Change. 20:550 – 557.

Sober, Elliot, & Wilson, D. S. 1998. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Williams, George. C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wilson, D.S. 2011a. The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time. New York: Little, Brown.

———. 2011b. “The Design Your Own Park Competition: Empowering Neighborhoods and Restoring Outdoor Play on a Citywide Scale.” American Journal of Play. 3:538 – 551.

———. 2014. “Introducing PROSOCIAL: Using the Science of Cooperation to Improve the Efficacy of Your Group.” This View of Life.

———. 2015. Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wilson, D.S., Kauffman, R. A., & Purdy, M. S. 2011. “A Program for At-risk High School Students Informed by Evolutionary Science.” PLoS ONE, 6(11), e27826. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027826

Wilson, D.S., & Gowdy, J. M. 2013. “Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 90:S3 – S10. doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.008

Wilson, D.S., Hayes, S. C., Biglan, A., & Embry, D. 2014. “Evolving the Future: Toward a Science of Intentional Change.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 37:395 – 460.

Wilson, D.S., E. Ostrom & M. Cox. 2013. “Generalizing the Design Principles for Improving the Efficacy of Groups.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 90:supplement, S21 – S32.

Wilson, D.S., & E.O. Wilson. 2007. “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology.” Quarterly Review of Biology. 82:327 – 348.


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  • Lexi Mize

    CPR – Common-pool resource. are not the P and the R redundant? If the word “pool” stands for a sharable entity, the “commons” then is not the pool the resource? Common-forest resource, common-field resource, common-bay resource, or more accurately, common-resource resource. So the reality is, CPR should be CRG – common resource group.

    Additionally, your verbiage “Hunter-gatherer societies are famously egalitarian, not because everyone
    is nice, but because members of a group can collectively suppress
    bullying and other self-aggrandizing behaviors within their ranks…” stands to read that only a set of super-bullies maintain the group. But in reality it should read “not ONLY because everyone is nice,” — the fact that altruism dominates the group must be acknowledged.

    Love the topic. The tragedy is that not more people in power will read and understand this theory.

    • Dr. Mohinder Kumar

      Post-Stalinist/Maoist Agricultural Collectives of 1940s, 1950s, now it’s galore of Groups in various forms of “formation” of collectivities like Self Help Groups (SHGs), Joint Liability Groups (JLGs), Farmers’ Clubs (FCs), Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs), etc. in the developing world. I think these Groups based on individualistic “self” help need to be evaluated for their social efficacy on the basis of Ostrom’s eight Core Design principles. Second, mechanical “design”, “creation”, “formation” and their confusion with biological “evolution” also needs to be articulated. Three, social world is not entirely/ absolutely like biological/ natural world. Social world/ society may not afford “selection” –howsoever fair. Society means survival of the 100%, not just the “fittest” unless we make all (100%) beings to be the fittest (or just fit). This is universal “inclusion”. Else 1% exclusion should be unacceptable. PROSOCIAL is a nice forum for the task.

  • Stefan Wasilewski

    The TotC is indeed “common” to a lot of problems but the method is “System Dynamics (“SD”)” which, like everything, has its flaws as a modelling technique. You can see a good example in Gene Bellingers “Perspectives” program on YouTube.

    Genes tireless efforts to get the world to see the difference between deterministic processes and probabilistic outcomes/processes can give you an idea of where system dynamics, networks and agent join forces to give a better picture.

    Pioneers such as Ostrom and Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model deserve credit for leading us to a better resource for understanding the dynamics of life but their models were greatly misunderstood and flawed, the former due to its deterministic bias from SD and the latter because whilst it is probabilistic there is no method to show how an economic system is evolving from its component agents (it has a rigid functional structure). Today is a different “kettle of fish” as the Greek’s knew; the past is gone, we live in the Now and co-create the future.

    I applaud the article but as a practitioner in the Capital Markets for 50-years and used all of the above and more I feel Complexity Economics has a lot to develop into as Capra and Beinhocker et al show in their work.

  • Just to be correct..she did not solve the problem of commons, just showed a way how to solve the problem

  • DaveHolden

    I think it is funny how inadvertently you keep coming to the conclusion that traditional values were right all along. INDEED, stop immigration and maintain ethnocentric states. That has always been the solution. When you turn your country in to some dumping ground of strangers people will not be invested in the country. Further, the elites know this and pushing immigration for this very reason. Any bit of wisdom and common sense would be led to a conclusion that makes Trump seem like an open-borders radical. We need to stop pretending this hyper-egalitarianism and cosmopolitan world-citizens BS should be the goal – it doesn’t work.

    • Emil Böhme

      Have you even read the article? -.^

  • kid_you_not

    YES! Borders! Self-determination. Since we all agree we can stop this suicidal immigration policy.

    • Brennan Young

      I think you might have missed the point. The article says nothing about policing borders or keeping individuals out.
      If immigration ‘threatens’ common pool resources (and there is much evidence that the opposite is true, except in the short term), then these theories would argue that such problems are best solved by regarding immigrants as *part of* any ‘self determination’. i.e. inviting them to participate on the same terms.

      • Peter Mersch

        Your answer is a good example that “political interests” override any scientific theory or result.

        Design principle 1 means: “Clearly defined boundaries (clear definition of the contents of the common pool resource and effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties)”.

        This means: If you have a common pool resource which is free to every member of a group (like some welfare state services in some countries), you should exclude all external unentitled parties, otherwise you will likely get the tragedy.

        • Brennan Young

          Your answer may *also* be a good example that “political interests” override any scientific theory or result.

          “Clearly defined boundaries” does not *necessarily* mean that outsiders should be excluded (although that is of course a possible interpretation).

          It *could* be that “members knew they were part of a group and what the group was about” and some of those members *could* be newcomers. As long as newcomers are appropriately inducted, then DP1 would be fulfilled.

          DP1 is not per se. an argument against immigration.

          • Peter Mersch

            Of course it is not an argument against immigration, but it is an argument against uncontrolled immigration. Controlled immigration is one with clear defined boundaries.

          • Brennan Young

            Unlike you, Peter, several correspondents here seem quite certain that Ostrom’s work is a general argument against immigration, which is certainly an ideological distortion of the theory. I’m glad you share my desire to identify and mitigate such distortions, as that was my motivation to post here.

            Additionally, there is no uncontrolled immigration in the developed world. Yes, illegal immigration occurs, to a greater or lesser extent in different regions, but there is no “uncontrolled” immigration. It might be more correct to say that there is uncontrolled *anxiety* about immigration, except that the anxiety is being promoted and maintained on a daily basis by a steady flow of sensational, but usually inaccurate ‘news’ stories.

            The very fact that immigrants can be “illegal” is an example of a control. Such individuals are constrained in various ways, they don’t have the same rights and privileges as legal immigrants or naturalised citizens. That’s control. It might not be the control we want, or the optimal form of control, but it is still control.

            And to reiterate, because the myths are so common: In general, the empirical evidence is very clear that immigration is good for the economy. There can of course be short term problems accompanying immigration. They would no doubt be worse if the immigration were uncontrolled (which it isn’t), but on the whole there are significant gains, even for the public purse (including welfare etc.).

            This makes the “immigration is bad” position even less tenable, from an economic perspective at least. I fully understand any scepticism, because the more commonly-held view is the opposite.

            As a starting point, I recommend the work of Professor Ian Goldin of Oxford University. He has researched and published on this topic in considerable depth, and documentation of that research, accessible to lay persons, is easy to find online. His findings are also supported by the OECD. I invite all truth-seeking correspondents, sceptical or not, to check these findings, and to challenge any contradictions they perceive with any appropriate and bona fide data.

          • Peter Mersch

            I am from Germany and there is uncontrolled immigration.

          • Brennan Young

            You say ‘there is no such empirical evidence’ but offer no counter evidence (e.g. empirical evidence that immigration is mostly/usually bad for the economy). I offer again the work of Ian Goldin in support of my argument. I am sure he would be delighted if you could spot any mistakes in his data. Can you point to any alternative data?

            I am not arguing for uncontrolled immigration, so you can put that strawman away. It’s irrelevant to my arguments or my position. I was quite clear about that in a previous post. The example of North America is not well chosen because both USA and Canada now have immigration controls.

            Most people who want more ‘control’ over immigration don’t actually seem to grasp that control does not necessarily mean reduction. You could have a controlled immigration of maximum 100 million individuals per year, or at least 1000 individuals per month, or whatever. It would still be controlled.

            And whether you live in Germany or not, there *is* immigration control in Germany, as there is in the entire EU. A citizen of (say) USA is not free to live in the EU without either a visa, or some kind of naturalisation. The Schengen agreement (which Germany has signed) is very precisely a document about controlling immigration. It specifies who is allowed to move freely in the region, and (crucially) it also species who is not.

            Once again, it might not be the control you want, but it is still control.

            And BTW, in case you didn’t know the birth rate has actually been falling for the last five decades. Check it. Population explosion is not the most serious issue any more.

          • Peter Mersch

            Can you point to any alternative data?

            I can point to Paul Collier: Exodus
            Collier is at Oxford University as Ian Goldwin is. He comes to the conclusion, that immigration may be good in some cases and bad in some other cases (especially if there is too much immigration from countries which are cultural too different).

            Ian Goldwin eg. writes in The Guardian: “A recent study by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London indicates that migrants added £20bn to the UK economy in the decade 2001 to 2011 and that migrants from the EU paid significantly more in taxes than they claimed in benefits or transfers for education, health or other expenditures.”

            Well, migration from the EU should be not that problem. In Germany we would be very happy if we had lots of migrants from the UK.

            “I am not arguing for uncontrolled immigration, so you can put that strawman away. ”

            Donald Trump promised, that he will build a wall between Mexiko and the US. There seems to be a lot of uncontrolled immigration to the US, otherwise this promise would not make much sense. And Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.

            “Most people who want more ‘control’ over immigration don’t actually seem to grasp that control does not necessarily mean reduction. You could have a controlled immigration of maximum 100 million individuals per year, or at least 1000 individuals per month, or whatever. It would still be controlled.”

            Sure it does not necessarily mean reduction, but at least you can reduce if you like.

            Take Microsoft. All staff member currently have to migrate into the company. If you want to work for Microsoft you first have to submit an application. Microsoft then decides if you qualify und not. Well this is controlled migration. Uncontrolled migration would be: Every person seeking for work can enter a Microsoft building and request for work. Microsoft then has to pay this person. If Microsoft has real work for the person, it is good for both parties, otherwise it is not.

            A country will fail, when there are different migration rules for its companies and the country itself.

            “And whether you live in Germany or not, there *is* immigration control in Germany, as there is in the entire EU. A citizen of (say) USA is not free to live in the EU without either a visa, or some kind of naturalisation.”

            From the US you usually enter Europe at an airport. On airports the immigration control works. But it does not work if you come per ship or via the open European boundaries.

            “The Schengen agreement (which Germany has signed) is very precisely a document about controlling immigration. It specifies who is allowed to move freely in the region, and (crucially) it also species who is not.”

            It does not work in the current situation. Did you ever hear about the Calais jungle? Well this is the result of uncontrolled migration.

            “The Schengen agreement (which Germany has signed) is very precisely a document about controlling immigration. It specifies who is allowed to move freely in the region, and (crucially) it also species who is not.”

            I do not think that you are an expert in this case.

            “Once again, it might not be the control you want, but it is still control.”

            In Germany it is named “uncontrolled mass integration”:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7KSaqIY0Vk

            “And BTW, in case you didn’t know the birth rate has actually been falling for the last five decades. Check it. Population explosion is not the most serious issue any more.”

            Ha ha, good joke:
            https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/11/population-growth-in-africa-grasping-the-scale-of-the-challenge

          • Peter Mersch

            I posted an answer, but is was not published.

            3 short remarks:

            1. Paul Collier (“Exodus”) is in contradiction to Ian Goldin (both are Scientists at Oxford University).
            2. In Europe we have currently uncontrolled migration. In the US obviously too. Trump proposed to build a wall between Mexiko and the US. I guess the reason was to stop uncontrolled migration.
            3. Your remark to population explosion is just nonsense. Afrika had in 1950 250 Million people, now they are 1400 Million and in 2100 it is estimated that the population has rised to 4400 Million. Nigeria has then probably more people than the European Union. That I call population explosion.

          • Christopher Burrell

            It looks like you,Peter, and Brennan have your wires crossed over the definition of control. Brennan is using it to mean any form of regulation or limits whereas you are defining it as the limit at which a political entity can absorb immigrants without being overwhelmed by conflicting values and resource demands, regardless of official policy or regulation. I side with the latter interpretation. Unfortunately, in the coming decades of climate chaos, mass migration is going to threaten many national cultures. Syria looks to be only the opening round.

          • Emil Böhme

            So in conclusion we should start right now considering a solution about how we manage the mass-migration, which is BTW caused by our self-centered and egoistic economic exploitation. No wonder all these people are coming over to Europe! It’s time to take responsibility for “our” actions in the past (committed by earlier generations) to work together for a common future. And isolation is definitely not the solution, because if we do that:
            The rich continents seal themselves off from the poor continents, the rich countries seal themselves off from the poor countries, the rich in the countries seal themselves off from the poor in THEIR OWN country, we would just kill each other one by one, only in the self-interest to live a while longer…
            Maybe a small elite would survive… I can’t really say, because it’s hard to predict, but it’s definitely no solution!
            You need to start to think about the longterm consequences of your actions, and not like it our previous generations did…

          • Peter Mersch

            And here is my original posts which was deleted as spam at the first time:

            Can you point to any alternative data?

            I can point to Paul Collier: “Exodus”

            Collier is at Oxford University as Ian Goldwin is. He comes to the conclusion, that immigration may be good in some cases and bad in some other cases (especially if there is too much immigration from countries which are cultural too different).

            Ian Goldwin eg. writes in The Guardian:

            A recent study by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London indicates that migrants added £20bn to the UK economy in the decade 2001 to 2011 and that migrants from the EU paid significantly more in taxes than they claimed in benefits or transfers for education, health or other expenditures.

            Well, migration from the EU should be not that problem.

            I am not arguing for uncontrolled immigration, so you can put that strawman away.

            Donald Trump promised to build a wall between Mexiko and the US. There seems to be a lot of uncontrolled immigration to the US, otherwise this promise would not make much sense. And Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.

            Most people who want more ‘control’ over immigration don’t actually seem to grasp that control does not necessarily mean reduction. You could have a controlled immigration of maximum 100 million individuals per year, or at least 1000 individuals per month, or whatever. It would still be controlled.

            Sure it does not necessarily mean reduction, but at least you can reduce if you like.

            Take Microsoft. All staff member currently have to migrate into the company. If you want to work for Microsoft you first have to submit an application. Microsoft then decides if you qualify und not. Well this is controlled migration. Uncontrolled migration would be: Every person seeking for work can enter a Microsoft building and request for work. Microsoft then has to pay this person. If Microsoft has real work for the person, it is good for both parties, otherwise it is not.

            A country will fail, when there are different migration rules for its companies and the country itself.

            And whether you live in Germany or not, there *is* immigration control in Germany, as there is in the entire EU. A citizen of (say) USA is not free to live in the EU without either a visa, or some kind of naturalisation.

            From the US you usually enter Europe on an airport. On airports the immigration control works. But it does not work if you come per ship or via the open European boundaries.

            The Schengen agreement (which Germany has signed) is very precisely a document about controlling immigration. It specifies who is allowed to move freely in the region, and (crucially) it also species who is not.

            It does not work in the current situation. Did you ever hear about the Calais jungle?
            Well this is the result of uncontrolled migration. I do not think that you are an expert in this case.

            Once again, it might not be the control you want, but it is still control.

            In Germany it is called “uncontrolled mass integration”.

            And BTW, in case you didn’t know the birth rate has actually been falling for the last five decades. Check it. Population explosion is not the most serious issue any more.

            Ha ha, good joke:
            https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/11/population-growth-in-africa-grasping-the-scale-of-the-challenge

          • BDev

            In USA, quite open immigration policies up until recent decades seemed to be successful largely because immigrants arrived knowing that their success or failure was directly proportional to their personal motivation and desire to achieve for themselves. State welfare was essentially non-existent, though religious organizations offered charity. Private individuals, groups and corps also offered focused types of charity.

            Immigrants today seem to expect all manner of welfare and other benefits, with pro-immigration groups flinging various forms of ‘shame bombs’ towards anyone who feels otherwise.

            Ostrom’s insights above, to me, emphasize Peter Mersch’s points, as well as historic immigration policy in the USA.

  • Peter Mersch

    In my view there are two problems with selection theory (including multilevel selection theory) in the given context:

    1. Selection theory usually makes too less assumptions on the objects/agents being selected. E. g. there is a big difference between talking about selection of groups or of superorganisms. Superorganisms are (comparative) competency loss preventing systems, while groups like populations ore eco systems are not.
    2. Modern human societies are primarily based on property rights (rights of disposal on resources) while nature is primarily based on commons (with the possible exception of intersexual selection, where the females own the disposal rights on their reproduction resources). If nature would be organized like human societies, the lion had to ask the zebra for approval before hunting it. In human societies the tragedy of commons is usually prevented by introducing property rights on commons: a) Declare the Brazilian Amazon rainforest as the property of BARC (Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Corporation), which is owned by all Brazilian people (as an example). b) All commercial exploitations of the Amazon rainforest must be explicitly approved by BARC. c) All unapproved exploitations of the rainforest are treated as infringements.

    In the view of Systemic Theory of Evolution ( http://www.mersch.com/molmain/main.php?docid=350 ) all living agents (including superorganisms like bee colonies or human companies/firms) are comparative competency loss preventing systems. This general assumption results almost straight forward from Second Law, as can be shown.

    In his original formulation and explanation of selection theory, Darwin made some assumptions (like ‘struggle for existence’) on the objects being selected. Formally he then deduced the selection theory from his assumptions (see Mayr, Ernst (2002): What Evolution Is. London: Phoenix, p. 128).

    The assumption “all objects are (comparative) competency loss preventing systems” is weaker than Darwin’s original assumptions. One can show that Darwin’s selection theory is deducible from the weaker assumption as well. The same is true for multilevel selection theory if all objects are comparative competency loss preventing systems.

    A much stronger assumption is the Selfish gene assumption.

    Economic theories usually also make assumptions on the behavior of the economic actors. The most prominent is rational choice theory with its homo economicus. Behavioral economics recently has substantially questioned these assumptions. Among others it was (empirically) shown that humans have a “loss aversion”. This is exactly what could be expected from Second Law and the comparative competency loss preventing assumption.

    In my view the main problem with Ostroms core design principles (CDPs) is, that they were mainly empirically generated – from different human societies in different situations. It is not explained, which individual behavior is necessary to make the principles work. I am pretty sure, that it can be shown, that the CDPs work, if all agents are (comparative) competency loss preventing systems.

  • Hi David
    Everything you write make sense to me, and there is a deeper set of perspectives that you have not made explicit, and I can perhaps understand why given the difficulty demonstrated here of many comprehending even as far as you have taken this.

    And to me, several things have become clear over my half century of engagement with the many levels of complexity involve in evolution.

    The first key thing to get about evolution, is that it is about the differential survival of variations over time and context.

    Variations of what?
    What sort of contexts?

    Coming to an understanding that evolution works simultaneously at every level of association takes a bit of coming to terms with.

    Understanding Axelrod’s work, and the fact that for cooperative systems to survive, they require attendant strategies to prevent cheating, takes a bit of getting used to.

    When one starts to view evolution in a complex systems context, with multiple simultaneous overlapping sets of agents, systems and constraints, exploring a possibility space that seems to potentially contain an infinite set of infinities, then all notions of equilibrium disappear.
    Complex adaptive systems are permanently exploring new spaces, there is no such thing as equilibrium even potentially possible.

    When one starts to look at the history of life through this lens of complex cooperative systems, one starts to see that all new levels of complexity are characterised by new levels of cooperation.

    Sure intergroup competition can be a strong factor in evolution when environment does not contain sufficient resources for all group members to survive.
    That is a common context, and it is not a universal context.

    As human beings, we live in a time when our ability to automate systems is doubling many times faster than our population, we should be experiencing freedom, security and abundance beyond anything in history.

    Does anyone here feel safe and secure?
    I most certainly don’t.

    Why is that?

    That simple question has been one of the central questions in my mind for a little over 42 years.

    I am now completely clear (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) that the single greatest contributing factor to that lack of security is using markets as a measure of value.

    It is the fact that markets always deliver a price point that is some function of utility multiplied by some function of scarcity (inverse of abundance). The more we want something, the higher the price, the less there is of something the higher the price.

    Anything universally abundant (zero scarcity) must by definition have zero price, evidence air. Air is arguably the single most important commodity for any human being, yet it has a market price of zero, because it is universally abundant (in most contexts).

    Fully automated systems have the ability to produce whatever they produce in universal abundance, but allowing them to do so would remove all profit from the flow of that good or service. Our current economic systems are about optimising profit, not about meeting the reasonable needs of people universally.

    When most goods and services were in fact genuinely scarce, markets did in fact serve many valuable roles.
    The context has changed.

    Automation changes everything, fundamentally!!!

    We do now have the tools to allow us to create systems to support universal cooperation, where that cooperation is based in the notions of individual life and individual liberty, in a contextual set of responsible actions including social and ecological contexts.

    Indefinite life extension makes it in the long term self interests of each and every one of us to be both cooperative and tolerant, and to be vigilant in searching out and identifying cheating strategies at every level.

    Arguably our entire economic system is now a very close approximation to a cheating system at every level. And that comes back to the fundamental conflict between the need of markets for scarcity to deliver value, and the need of individual humans for an abundance of the basic necessities of life to deliver security and empower self actualisation in whatever sets of dimensions an individual responsibly chooses.

    Like you David, I am involved in may levels of community groups, and currently chair 4 such groups, one for over a decade, and have been involved in other capacities in other groups over a similar period. Consensus can work, and it requires building trust and gaining agreement on shared values, and coming back to those shared values whenever an impasse is reached.

    There are many economic forces directly arrayed against all such action, because they are focused on what worked in the past, and have failed to see the sorts of future that exponential advances in automation are delivering that dwarf anything from our past.

    It is time to start acknowledging that for all our many differences we are all much more alike than we are different, and the security of every one of us is related to security of everyone else.

    Universal cooperation is not just possible as a result of advances in computation and automation, it is in fact the only path that offers a significant probability of any of us surviving for very long.

    It is time for each and every one of us to become as aware as we can of that simple fact, and start taking small responsible steps towards universal cooperation, while simultaneously being tolerant of diversity and alert for cheating strategies.

    Not an easy thing, and doable.

    I never got to meet Lin.
    I am a cancer survivor.
    I am deeply involved in a project here in New Zealand that she consulted on some years ago.

    A big part of this awareness, is becoming aware that all of our likes and dislikes, at every level of biology and culture, seem to have at their base differential survival amongst available alternatives.
    Another part is realising that all our experience is of a model of reality created by the subconscious processes of our brains. We never have direct access to the real thing, the logic and neurophysiology of that is undeniable.

    It seems that there does exist the possibility of a peaceful secure future for all, and other possibilities exist also, many of them devoid of human beings.

    All of our individual choices do matter.

    • Peter Mersch

      I have a slightly different view of that.

      “Universal cooperation (…) is in fact the only path that offers a significant probability of any of us surviving for very long.
      It is time for each and every one of us to become as aware as we can of that simple fact, and start taking small responsible steps towards universal cooperation, while simultaneously being tolerant of diversity and alert for cheating strategies.”

      Cooperation in human societies is based to a large extend on “division of labor” or more precisely on “division of competencies”. This was already known to one of the founders of social sciences Émile Durkheim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim

      “Division of competencies” is unknown in biology. The most relevant result in economics (or even in social sciences) may be Ricardo’s theorem. For social sciences it has a similar importance as natural selection for evolutionary biology: http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/ricardo.htm

      It is possible to formulate Ricardo’s theorem in evolutionary concepts (like ressources and competencies) as was shown. I think, evolutionary economics should first transform accepted economical ideas and results into evolutionary concepts instead of just claiming that evolutionary economics is better than standard economics.

      “A big part of this awareness, is becoming aware that all of our likes and dislikes, at every level of biology and culture, seem to have at their base differential survival amongst available alternatives.
      (…)
      All of our individual choices do matter.”

      Differential survival is a biological concept. Unfortunately human societies are much more complex than biology. E. g. in nature there is no “division of competencies”. Consequently non-humans do not have core competencies.

      Imagine two persons sitting in a bar and listening to a news message which may be very disadvantageous for Microsoft. You may see that the first person completely ignores the message, while the other hurries up to call her stock broker. The reason is: For the first person the message may be completely irrelevant (regarding to her core competencies), while the second person fears a substantial loss of her competencies.

      General evolution is not driven by differential survival or selection. Instead it is driven by comparative competency loss prevention.

      • Hi Peter,

        The two concepts are entirely equivalent. It kind of reminds me of the path of development of quantum mechanics, where what appeared to be three very different approaches were eventually shown to be mathematically equivalent.

        What you call “division of competencies” is what I call “cooperation” – they are logically one and the same things, just viewed differently.

        Your claim that ‘“Division of competencies” is unknown in biology.’ is however clearly false.
        In considering that claim, just consider the human body from a “cell’s eye” perspective. All of the cells share identical genetic material. Yet different lines of cells, as a result of subtle variations in context, develop different expressions of that material into different competencies, delivering all the different organs and functionality one finds in the human body (or the body of any other complex animal or plant).

        The essential step that allows such complexity and cooperation (division of competencies) is the development of sexual reproduction, and gene sharing amongst cell lines, which allows bigger collections than just cells to be established.

        Once one starts to view systems as being functions of:
        the processes present;
        the boundary conditions between processes;
        the contexts of those systems;
        the variations or modulations of these over time and space;
        the recursive nature of the systemic incentive sets (as per games theory, theory of moves, and recursive extensions of these principles into higher dimensional spaces);
        then one starts to get an idea of what evolution is, and the depths of complexity present in the constantly evolving exploration of the infinite sets of possibilities possible.

        Differential survival is exactly equivalent to “loss prevention”.
        What is “loss”, if not increased probability of death (reduced fitness in Darwinian terms)?

        Don’t get hung up on any particular level of expression of evolution.

        Human beings are not a single level expression of evolution.
        We are an expression of about 20 levels of evolution simultaneously.
        About 10 of those levels are driven off molecular interactions, starting with RNA as catalysts and diffusion gradients as boundary conditions, and working on up through levels of molecular interaction leading eventually to cells, then levels of cellular interaction leading to bodies, then levels of body interactions leading to ecologies.

        We humans have these amazing general purpose Turing machine brains, that also come with a vast array of special purpose (hard wired) subsystems. This system has allowed the development of what in the broadest of terms we can call “culture”, as an expression of mimetic interactions and differential survival (division of competencies) over deep time.

        It is now clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that our conscious awareness is a software entity, in a human brain, existing in a software model of reality, and that software is the result of about 10 levels of recursive mimetic evolution.

        At this level, what survives isn’t the bodies, their survival is irrelevant in a sense, though very important to us as self aware individuals. Our self awareness is a sort of hitchhiker on the system generally. It is a level of system, an emergent property, of a very complex set of levels of system that are entirely based on levels of cooperation (levels of “divisions of competencies” to use your expression of that self same concept). And Axelrod (et al) clearly showed by experiment that raw cooperation is always vulnerable. Cooperation (division of competency), requires attendant strategies to prevent being overwhelmed by cheating strategies (arguably most of our current suite of governance and finance systems).

        From where I am looking, we are both saying the same thing, except that you appear not as yet be able to distinguish the equivalence of my view.
        And the history of science (of culture) is replete with examples of such things.
        John Gribbin’s “Science a History” is a great introduction (as is Goldmans lecture series), and neither is a replacement for having lived it for half a century. I complete my undergrad biochemistry studies in 1974, and in that year was in the very first undergraduate class on the planet to be taught Wegener’s plate tectonics theory. The computer I had to work on at that time used paper tape, punched cards, and reel to reel tapes, it had no hard drive (that came later in that year).

        So in one sense, I entirely agree with you.
        Yes division of competencies.
        And in another sense, we fundamentally disagree where you claim ‘“Division of competencies” is unknown in biology’.
        To me, clearly, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, my existence is based upon about 20 levels of division of competencies in two very distinct domains, which open up the possibility of an emergent third class of domains.

        What is abundantly clear, is that the signaling systems provided by markets can no longer meet the demands required of it.
        Transition is required.
        Something else entirely needs to emerge.
        All of the required elements exist.
        And there exists systemic dangers, existential risk, in the transition.
        Nothing is risk free, and the risk profile of the current system is heading into very dangerous territory very quickly.
        Managing those transitional risks, minimising them to the greatest degree possible, is what I am about.
        There are much safer alternatives, that are of real benefit to every individual (including in the domains of security and freedom), and getting there isn’t a foregone conclusion.

        • Peter Mersch

          Hi Ted

          –Your claim that ‘“Division of competencies” is unknown in biology.’ is however clearly false.
          In considering that claim, just consider the human body from a “cell’s eye” perspective. All of the cells share identical genetic material. Yet different lines of cells, as a result of subtle variations in context, develop different expressions of that material into different competencies, delivering all the different organs and functionality one finds in the human body (or the body of any other complex animal or plant).–

          This is division of labor, but not division of (evolutionary important) competencies. Humans can specialize on cattle breeding or agriculture and develop both competencies independently of each other. Animals or cells can’t.

          The same is with bee colonies: There is a lot of division of labor, but no division of competencies. Workers can’t (evolutionary) develop their knowledge independently of the queen.

          • Hi Peter,

            Put a heart cell in a brain, or a brain cell in a heart, and it wont work.

            Those cells have identical genetic material, but due to differences in developmental paths and inter-cellular signalling have developed different morphologies and different competencies. A neuron cannot contract a heart and a heart muscle cell cannot transmit an electrical signal over long distances with high fidelity.
            There is very definitely an aspect of competency present.
            Sure those competencies are largely developed in a repeatable developmental process, which is why the control of the developmental environment is so crucial to outcomes achieved (take that to as many levels as you like with cultural or pedagogical systems).

            Sure, we humans are much more complex than our individual cells, we have new levels of competencies, that is true, and they are competencies.

            And just like our cells, we largely develop our competencies as a result of signalling between peers during a developmental process. The signalling is more complex. The competencies more complex. And it is essentially just a variation on a theme. A theme that one find recursively throughout biology.

            Worker bees can and do develop and transmit knowledge, quite independently of the queen, they just don’t breed. Have you studied bee behaviour in detail? I spent some time with them about 40 years ago from both a cybernetics perspective, as well as from behavioural perspectives – looking at the interplay of systems and biochemistry.

            Once again, sure, there is a difference of degree, we are much more complex than bees, capable of far greater levels of competencies.

            Sure humans have new modes action and new modes of transmission.
            We have writing, and movies and TV and plays and all manner of digital systems to help us communicate, and share competencies.

            And as a software developer with over 30 years of developing commercial systems, I am very clear that most people are not consciously aware of the details of their competencies. It is very rare indeed for what someone says that they do to actually perfectly agree with what they do in practice. As an automator of systems, I need to observe very closely what it is that they actually do, then do my best to figure out why, then determine what it is that the company actually wants (by talking to and observing everyone else who actually uses anything derivative of that data, and all of the regulatory and commercial constraints on the systems), then I build a system to do what is needed.

            We are complex entities, and we learn to do what works, even if it is different from what we think we are doing. Weird how often that happens!!!

            And to be clear – this is multi level abstraction we are working with here – it is all analogy.

          • Peter Mersch

            Hi Ted

            “Put a heart cell in a brain, or a brain cell in a heart, and it wont work.
            Those cells have identical genetic material, but due to differences in developmental paths and inter-cellular signalling have developed different morphologies and different competencies.”

            No, they don’t have different evolutionary relevant competencies. They have identical genetic material, so they cannot (evolutionary) develop their own genetic material (and competencies).

            The same is valid for workers and queens in most social insects: Their roles are not determined by genes. Therefore they do not have separate evolutionary relevant competencies.

            But look at the Darwin finches. Each different species has different (evolutionary relevant) competencies. This ist the reason why we call them different species. In nature there is a division of competencies between species, not within species as in human societies.

            Human societies (and especially human economic systems) are as complex as full eco systems. This explains why humans begin to dominate all life and not just a genus.

            I do not think, that is possible to describe evolutionary economics based on selection. First of all you would have to expand evolutionary theory (at least by Ricardo’s theorem).

            “Sure, we humans are much more complex than our individual cells, we have new levels of competencies, that is true, and they are competencies.”

            This one of my problems with multilevel selection: It applies to groups without any further specification. I believe that it is necessary to restrict the groups to agents, which have their own (evolutionary relevant) competencies and a competency loss preventing behavior.

            Human companies like Microsoft or Amazon belong to such groups and bee colonies as well. But populations or flocks of birds do not.

            “Worker bees can and do develop and transmit knowledge, quite independently of the queen, they just don’t breed.”

            No they can’t evolutionary transmit knowledge.

            Biologists or physicists can evolutionary transmit knowledge (without having offspring) but a worker bee can’t.

            Jesus Christ or Ludwig van Beethoven did evolutionary transmit knowledge (without having offspring), but most animals can’t. Richard Dawkins invented memetics to describe a mechanism for evolutionary transmitting non-biological knowledge (I personally do not believe that memetics makes much sense). So why he proposed a concept like memetics (for humans and some birds), if even worker bees would be able to transmit evolutionary relevant information?

            “Once again, sure, there is a difference of degree, we are much more complex than bees, capable of far greater levels of competencies.”

            No there is not just a difference of degree. We are something new. Our societies are based on division of competencies.

            “Sure humans have new modes of action and new modes of transmission.
            We have writing, and movies and TV and plays and all manner of digital systems to help us communicate, and share competencies.”

            This all is very important, but decisive is division of competencies.
            Some dogs have much better eyes or ears than humans usually have. But nevertheless they never reached the level some humans have reached. E. g. there are some humans which are currently listening to the Big Bang. Division of competencies made it possible.

          • Hi Peter

            This is getting really complex, and we are talking straight past each other much of the time because the terms we are using mean very different things to each of us.

            Firstly.
            In terms of evolution, it works at every level simultaneously.
            What varies is the impact on the frequencies (the fitness) at each different level or grouping.
            The boundary conditions at each level are important too.
            What is the frequency of interchange between populations – the degree of boundary, the degree of leakage. Lions and tigers can interbreed, but they don’t normally, in practice.
            Evolution always comes down to what happens in practice, rather than what is possible. Such is the nature of reality.
            And that is a really complex topic, many levels, many degrees of permeability present in the different levels of boundaries.

            In terms of what is evolving, that too is complex.

            Bees are mostly restricted to genes and genetic expression.

            Humans seem to have two and sometime 3 different domains present simultaneously.

            We are all expressions of genetic evolution, in the shapes and function and potentialities of our physical body.
            Part of that physical body is the brain, which is the domain of expression of the other two domains.

            Learned behaviour is the next major domain, Mimetics. The ability to transmit a pattern of behaviour from one entity to another.
            Many animals do this, but none to the degree or to the degrees of abstraction that we do. We are the only animal we are aware of that has developed language beyond simple verbs and nouns into a set of symbols capable of expressing recursively abstract concepts.
            Many animals learn behaviours which are passed on in populations over generations and have significant impact on the survival of those groups – orca, elephants, apes, corvids, mustelids, …..
            The dimensions of culture that our ability to use abstract symbols of language allows is exponentially beyond anything else we are currently aware of.
            And all of this information can be understood in an evolutionary context, where the groupings of ideas or behaviours are the species, and the human brain is the environment within which they evolve.

            And there is a third domain, of individual awareness, that is again recursively abstractable, and is not as yet transmissible. And that is a really complex topic.

            And there are linkages between these thing.

            What you are calling “division of competencies” in the sense you seem to be using it seems to equate to the evolution of “mimetic species” in the sense I am using.

            The rate of the evolution of these “mimetic species” and the complexity of those “species” both seem to be on double exponential trajectories.

            These “species” are a major aspect of what we are, and there is something else present also – and that can be tricky, because it is a double abstraction to begin with, and only gets more complex and more abstract from there in its evolution. It is a virtual systems within a symbolic model, within a predictive model of reality within a human brain. And of course it is influenced by all the pre-existing systems of genetics and mimetics including all cultural and emotional systems etc; and it is the biggest part of what we call “I”.

            If you attempt to oversimplify evolution, you lose the ability it has to explain what is.
            And we are each far too complex to ever understand in detail, only ever in broad brush stroke terms.
            We all have aspects that are fundamentally unpredictable, however predictable we may appear to be much of the time.

            In this context, our exponentially expanding ability to automate processes is making Ricardo’s theorem completely redundant – in fact making all exchange based thinking redundant.
            Yes the theorem worked in practice in its time, and still does in a sense, and automation is overtaking everything.

            It cannot be about exchange or comparative advantage any more, it has to be about something else.

          • Peter Mersch

            “Firstly.
            In terms of evolution, it works at every level simultaneously.”

            Of course. But if you talk about one level, you usually can ignore all lower levels. E.g. if you talk about species, you can ignore cells. It’s like in astronomy: If you talk about galaxies you can ignore our solar system. There is no need to make things more complicated than they are.

            “What varies is the impact on the frequencies (the fitness) at each different level or grouping.”

            May be. But this does not matter. Relevant is the level you are considering.

            “ Lions and tigers can interbreed, but they don’t normally, in practice.
            Evolution always comes down to what happens in practice, rather than what is possible. Such is the nature of reality.”

            Lions and tigers are competency loss preventing systems. Hybrids are often not able to produce offspring. From an evolutionary point of view it usually does not make sense to produce hybrids. One can therefore expect that evolution has created mechanisms to prevent the interbreeding of lions and tigers.

            “And that is a really complex topic, many levels, many degrees of permeability present in the different levels of boundaries.”

            You can look with the same attitude at the universe. You can consider suns, planets, moons, asteroids, meteorids, galaxies, cluster of galaxies etc. altogether. But you will not have much success with such a method. If Newton had done this, he never had found his laws of gravitation. He found the laws by reducing complexity.

            “In terms of what is evolving, that too is complex.”

            Therefore one should try to reduce complexity, as they do it in mathematics, physics and astronomy.

            “Bees are mostly restricted to genes and genetic expression.”

            But bee colonies have their own competencies. E.g. they are warm-blooded while bees are not.

            “And all of this information can be understood in an evolutionary context, where the groupings of ideas or behaviours are the species, and the human brain is the environment within which they evolve.”

            In an evolutionary context you can call this information “competencies”.

            “And there is a third domain, of individual awareness, that is again recursively abstractable, and is not as yet transmissible. And that is a really complex topic.”

            If this information is not transmissible, it is evolutionary irrelevant. It is like making a big invention (eg. producing energy at very low costs) and telling nobody else about this.

            “And there are linkages between these thing.”

            In the universe there is a gravitational linkage between everything, even between a Russian satellite and the Andromeda galaxy. But in any practical situation you can ignore this linkage.

            “What you are calling ‘division of competencies’ in the sense you seem to be using it seems to equate to the evolution of ‘mimetic species’ in the sense I am using.”

            No, it does not. This site here is named “evonomics”, so it is about evolutionary economics. Then I guess the scientific results of standard economics are at least appreciated. Currently there are two competing paradigms in economics, one is based on costs and benefits, the other one on competencies and resources (see eg. Prahalad, Coimbatore Krishnarao/Hamel, Gary (1990): The Core Competence of the Corporation; In: Harvard Business Review, May-June 1990, p. 79-90). Unfortunately most results in economics are currently based on the cost and benefit paradigm (eg. Ricardo’s theorem; homo economicus, …), though the competencies and resources paradigm would much better fit into an evolutionary context (because evolution mainly is about competencies and resources).

            Once again: Humans and corporations (companies, firms) can develop core competencies. This means: They are able to divide competencies. All other species can’t!

            You can transform Ricardo’s theorem from a cost/benefit formulation into one based on competencies and resources. And: With this transformation it is much easier to generalize Ricardo’s theorem to an unlimited number of agents and competencies.

            On this basis you can show that division of competencies is an evolutionary advantage. You can even show that division of competencies is an evolutionary mechanism.

            It is my strong believe that you have to produce results like this (that means results which comply with evolutionary theory and(!) standard economics) to make evoeconomics a success and an established scientific discipline.

            “If you attempt to oversimplify evolution, you lose the ability it has to explain what is.”

            If you are not able to simplify the considered situation you will fail in any case.

            By the way: Why I am reading here something about the superorganism bee colony, but nothing about human corporations as superorganisms? There is already an economical theory about this: “Population Ecology of Organizations Theory” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_ecology ). The problem of this theory currently is, that it tries to base its evolutionary model on Darwin, which does not make sense for agents which are able to develop core competencies (are able to divide competencies).

            “In this context, our exponentially expanding ability to automate processes is making Ricardo’s theorem completely redundant – in fact making all exchange based thinking redundant.
            Yes the theorem worked in practice in its time, and still does in a sense, and automation is overtaking everything.”

            Sorry, but this is plain wrong. Why do physicians usually have medical assistants, even if they could perform all of their tasks much faster? Why it is better for LeBron James to pay a gardener to cut the lawn even if he could do it itself in less time?

            Ricardo’s theorem and the concept of core competencies give the answer to these questions.

          • Thanks for keeping on keeping on Peter,I do appreciate it.

            And we are talking about different things much of the time.

            In a very real sense, I have no argument with the core competency formulation you use, or even reformulating Ricardo’s theorem in that way.

            Those aren’t the issue.

            Yes physicians have medical assistants – at present.
            And Watson is going to be a better doctor than most doctors very soon.

            Our exponentially expanding ability to automate processes allows us to automate more and more competencies.

            And sure, the set of possible competencies is infinite, we will always be able to develop new and interesting competencies – I have no issue with that aspect of being, I enjoy it.

            What I have an issue with is the idea that people will need to exchange anything unless they really want to.

            When we can fully automate all of the core competencies required to meet the needs for survival, then something fundamental changes in our systems.

            Without a requirement to make money to survive, the dynamics of working together in groups can change substantially.

            People can have real choice about only working with groups whose values align with their own.

            It is something different.
            It is an evolution in the way we organise our house.

          • Peter Mersch

            Hi Ted, I do appreciate discussions like this as well.

            “In a very real sense, I have no argument with the core competency formulation you use, or even reformulating Ricardo’s theorem in that way.
            Those aren’t the issue.”

            But those are an issue in the context of Elinor Ostrom’s work. Take the classical allmende problem: We have eg. 50 cattle farmers sharing a common land (the allmende). Cattle farming is their core competency, not managing the land (which is a common resource in our example). As all cattle farmers are evolutionary agents (i.e. competency loss preventing systems) they behave sustainably to their core competencies (cattle farming) and exploitative to their environment (the land, from where they have to take the necessary resources).

            This is already one of my points to “one of life’s greatest dilemmas”: You cannot logically argue the dilemma, if you do not make assumptions about the general behavior of all life. The assumption of the Systemic Theory of Evolution is that all evolutionary agents are (comparative) competency loss preventing systems. From this assumption you can immediately derive the dilemma.

            Of course the cattle farmers (as competency loss preventing systems) will try a lot of things to comparatively keep their core competencies, e.g. breeding better cattle. Another method may be the so called “economies of scale”: If they put more cattle on the same (common) land, they may have a greater benefit per cattle and of course in total, especially as an additional piece of cattle would cost the farmer probably almost nothing (= so called border costs).

            As all other farmers are competency loss preventing systems too, they are forced to put as well additional cattle on the land. This produces the tragedy of the commons.

            This is a simple explanation of the tragedy of the commons based on the behavioral model of the Systemic Theory of Evolution.
            Could you do the same on the basis of “selfish gene” or selection theory? I don’t think so. To say it frankly, I am a bit irritated that in discussions about the tragic of the commons the basic assumptions about the behavior of the participating agents are usually not clearly named.

            But how would human societies usually solve the tragedy? One very common solution is to hand over the property rights for the land to a new corporation (“Allmende corporation”, maybe with the cattle farmers as shareholders). The core competency of that corporation would be “managing land”. As this corporation is as well a competency loss preventing system, it would install mechanisms to prevent overexploitation of the land (eg. each cattle farmer had to submit a request for additional cattle before putting it on the land).

            This is already an example for an additional division of competencies: In the beginning the farmers had all the same competencies, but the land was a common resource. In the end we have the farmers, the Allmende corporation and a new division of competencies.

            Please note: This is not just division of labor as in the case of bee colonies. Division of competencies is an evolutionary concept, division of labor is not (instead it is a static concept)!

            “Yes physicians have medical assistants – at present.
            And Watson is going to be a better doctor than most doctors very soon.
            Our exponentially expanding ability to automate processes allows us to automate more and more competencies.”

            Usually this automation is an expansion of competencies, at least for those who can use the new automated services. Unfortunately some people will lose their jobs this way. But there are still a lot of other opportunities (especially in work with people).

            “And sure, the set of possible competencies is infinite, we will always be able to develop new and interesting competencies – I have no issue with that aspect of being, I enjoy it.”

            Yes, the process of specialization (division of competencies) is still going on. In spite of automation we get more (and not less) different professions every year.

            “What I have an issue with is the idea that people will need to exchange anything unless they really want to.
            When we can fully automate all of the core competencies required to meet the needs for survival, then something fundamental changes in our systems.
            Without a requirement to make money to survive, the dynamics of working together in groups can change substantially.
            People can have real choice about only working with groups whose values align with their own.
            It is something different.
            It is an evolution in the way we organise our house.”

            I do not fully understand this. Maybe my English is too limited. With 10 billion people living shortly on the earth I see no possibility to automate the production of the basic resources for everybody, especially as we are already overexploitating the global resources. Automation generally uses more resources than normal hand work. Automation may be currently cheaper due to mass production and cheap resources (especially energy), but this will not last forever.

            And there are a lot of additional opportunities. E. g. we still have no paid profession for raising children. A young woman can still not say: “Oh, there is a need for well educated, well behaved children not growing up in poverty and educational alienation? Well, I am willing to do the job. And I am willing to make a special education for that. But then I would like to be paid appropriately for this important social activity.” (For me the current situation is an infringement of gender equality). Instead they are discussing silly concepts like basic income for everybody (which would be very attractive for jobless uneducated women to raise lots of children – because these women are competency loss preventing systems too).

          • Hi Peter,
            My hat is off to you sir, I could not conduct a conversation like this in any other language – I have enough trouble in English 😉

            And for all my efforts thus far I don’t appear to be doing such a good job.

            If I go back a post, you stated “You can look with the same attitude at the universe. You can consider suns, planets, moons, asteroids, meteorids, galaxies, cluster of galaxies etc. altogether. But you will not have much success with such a method. If Newton had done this, he never had found his laws of gravitation. He found the laws by reducing complexity.” which is kind of true, in one sense, and false in another.

            Yes that is what Newton did, and he did a great job, invented calculus along the way. And my understanding of the the universe today goes far beyond Newton. In fact just about everything that he believed true has now been disproven. We now have much better models, much more accurate, much greater complexity. And for certain purposes, Newton’s understandings are close enough.

            And my understanding of the universe relies on quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is only possible to understand the distribution of matter, and the makeup and distribution of stars, with recourse to QM. Without understanding quantum tunnelling effects, the way stars make heavier elements wouldn’t make sense. Without nuclear fusion the age of the universe is too young, without enough time for evolution.

            In my mind, all these things form necessary linkages.

            And Pythagorean geometry is near enough for many purposes, like building houses. But building a GPS network requires both QM and General relativity, Newtonian principle simply cannot deliver a working GPS system.

            And evolution is like that for me.
            It has so many levels, so many strategic interactions, and they are all very important to the big picture, just as quantum mechanics is essential to understanding the distribution of matter and the properties of the materials that make life possible on this planet.

            You stated “With 10 billion people living shortly on the earth I see no possibility to automate the production of the basic resources for everybody, especially as we are already overexploitating the global resources.” I get that is a common view, and in a sense it is real, and it is also false in a much deeper and more important sense.

            Yes, certainly, some of the technologies we are using today are not at all appropriate – and for the most part we continue to use them for monetary reasons. We know how to do a lot of things much better than we do, but the money system works against such things in many different ways.

            If you look at the big picture, the earth is about 500 million km^2. Since I am interested in energy, let’s reduce that to a circle facing the sun for simplicity, giving about 130 million km2. About a third of that is too cold, 2/3rds of the remainder is water, and we want to leave at least half the land in a natural state. That leaves us with 14 million km2, or 1,400 m^2 per person. It takes about 100m^2 of intensive horticulture to feed a person with reasonable redundancy. So if you used only a 5th of the remaining land as solar cells, 20% efficiency, then you have about 50KW continuous power available for every person.
            That is enough to sustain a very high lifestyle.
            It runs a lot of very smart software running a lot of very powerful machines, doing all the automated things necessary to feed, house, cloth, educate, and otherwise care for us.

            That way we don’t have to do anything for anyone else, and most of us like doing things for other people some of the time, so most of us will continue to do that when both we and they agree it is appropriate.

            So no, I see no technical problem in creating technologies that both deliver a very high standard of living to every individual, and take far better care of the ecosystems we share this planet with, than we are at present.

            Money, this system we have of judging value based on scarcity, doesn’t work when faced with technologies capable of delivering such abundance.
            Any such technology has the same value as air (nothing). Yet air is arguably the single most valuable good for every human being.

            Money as a measure of value, markets as places where such a measure is defined, are rapidly approaching the end of their social utility, and are posing exponentially increasing risk.

            Money has been a very useful myth, and like Santa Claus, there comes a time in ones life when one needs to stop believing in such myths.

            For me, what is important is individual life, and individual liberty; and those things have to exist in social and ecological contexts, which demand social and ecological responsibility from each and every one of us.

            In the past, markets and money have performed many valuable roles, in arbitrage, in coordination, in signal generation and transmission, in risk mitigation, …. And all of those things can now be done much faster and much more accurately and simply by fully automated systems.

            Competency loss is a very small part of what evolution selects for.

            The layers of strategic systems present in even the most uneducated human adult are amazingly complex.

            Competency loss prevention is a simple idea that works well in some contexts, but isn’t actually what is going on in the reality behind the ideas most of the time. Mostly it is much more complex, much more dynamic, many layers of simultaneously operating systems.

            And in all of that complexity, I am clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the long term self interests of every individual (even the most wealthy and powerful in the current system) is tied up in us delivering security of life and liberty to every individual.

            And if you think things are diverse now, wait until the economic brakes come off and every individual has the freedom to self actualise and explore whatever sets of possibility spaces they responsibly choose (where such responsibility includes conscious risk mitigation for all significant risks to others and the environment we all share).

            In this sense, I am all for evonomics, which to me means evolving our economic system (in the classical sense of economics being the management of our household, in the largest sense of our joint house, this planet we live on), beyond its current myopic focus on markets and money as management tools.

            Actually doing that will require a detailed knowledge of all the strategic levels of highly evolved systems, as well as a sound knowledge of complex systems, ecology, quantum mechanics, automation, biology and many other disciplines.

            That is as simple as it gets.
            Try making it any more simple, and it aint going to work!

            This is not a trivial issue.
            And it is a real issue.

          • Hi Peter,
            My hat is off to you sir, I could not conduct a conversation like this in any other language – I have enough trouble in English 😉

            And for all my efforts thus far I don’t appear to be doing such a good job.

            If I go back a post, you stated “You can look with the same attitude at the universe. You can consider suns, planets, moons, asteroids, meteorids, galaxies, cluster of galaxies etc. altogether. But you will not have much success with such a method. If Newton had done this, he never had found his laws of gravitation. He found the laws by reducing complexity.” which is kind of true, in one sense, and false in another.

            Yes that is what Newton did, and he did a great job, much improved the old understandings, invented calculus along the way. And my understanding of the the universe today goes far beyond Newton, beyond anything he ever conceptualised. In fact just about everything that he believed true has now been disproven. We now have much better models, much more accurate, much greater complexity. And for certain purposes, Newton’s understandings are close enough. And in the bigger picture, we are way past Newton.

            And my understanding of the universe relies on quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is only possible to understand the distribution of matter, and the makeup and distribution of stars and galaxies, with recourse to QM. Without understanding quantum tunnelling effects, the way stars make heavier elements wouldn’t make sense. Without nuclear fusion the age of the universe is too young, without enough time for evolution. The distribution of the types of stars we see is directly related to quantum mechanics, and the sorts of quantum processes that occur under certain conditions.

            In my mind, all these things form necessary linkages.

            And Pythagorean geometry is near enough for many purposes, like building houses. But building a GPS network requires both QM and General relativity, Newtonian principle simply cannot deliver a working GPS system.

            And evolution is like that for me.
            It has so many levels, so many strategic interactions, and they are all very important to the big picture, just as quantum mechanics is essential to understanding the distribution of matter and the properties of the materials that make up this universe and make life possible on this planet.

            You stated “With 10 billion people living shortly on the earth I see no possibility to automate the production of the basic resources for everybody, especially as we are already overexploitating the global resources.” I get that is a common view, and in a sense it is real, and it is also false in a much deeper and more important sense.

            Yes, certainly, some of the technologies we are using today are not at all appropriate or sustainable – and for the most part we continue to use them for monetary reasons. We know how to do a lot of things much better than we do, but the money system works against such things in many different ways.

            If you look at the big picture, the earth is about 500 million km^2. Since I am interested in energy in this paragraph, let’s reduce that to a circle facing the sun for simplicity, giving about 130 million km2. About a third of that is too cold, 2/3rds of the remainder is water, and we want to leave at least half the land in a natural state. That leaves us with 14 million km2, or 1,400 m^2 per person. It takes about 100m^2 of intensive horticulture to feed a person with reasonable redundancy. So if you used only a 5th of the remaining land as solar cells, 20% efficiency, then you have about 50KW continuous power available for every person.
            That is enough to sustain a very high lifestyle.
            It runs a lot of very smart software running a lot of very powerful machines, doing all the automated manufacturing and service delivery things necessary to feed, house, cloth, educate, and otherwise care for us.

            That way we don’t have to do anything for anyone else, and most of us like doing things for other people some of the time, so most of us will continue to do that when both we and they agree it is appropriate.

            So no, I see no technical problem in creating technologies that both deliver a very high standard of living to every individual, and take far better care of the ecosystems we share this planet with, than we are at present. But there is no way to do that within the existing money system, as market systems value scarcity and we need universal abundance (which by definition has no market value). The technology is easy compared to getting people to look at things differently.

            Money, this system we have of judging value based on scarcity, doesn’t work when faced with technologies capable of delivering universal abundance.
            Any such technology has the same value as air (nothing). Yet air is arguably the single most valuable good for every human being.

            Money as a measure of value, markets as places where such a measure is defined, are rapidly approaching the end of their social utility, and are posing exponentially increasing risk to every one of us.

            Money has been a very useful myth, and like Santa Claus, there comes a time in ones life when one needs to stop believing in such myths.

            For me, what is important is individual life, and individual liberty; and those things have to exist in social and ecological contexts, which demands social and ecological responsibility from each and every one of us.

            In the past, markets and money have performed many valuable roles, in arbitrage, in coordination, in signal generation and transmission, in risk mitigation, …. And all of those things can now be done much faster and much more accurately and simply by fully automated systems.

            Competency loss is a very small part of what evolution selects for.

            The layers of strategic systems present in even the most uneducated human adult are amazingly complex.

            Competency loss prevention is a simple idea that works well in some contexts, but isn’t actually what is going on in the reality behind the ideas most of the time. Mostly it is much more complex, much more dynamic, many layers of simultaneously operating systems.

            In the simple model of the Tragedy of the Commons that you described, the collapse of the entire system means they all die.
            Alternatives that don’t die, get to survive – evolution works that way.
            Lin Ostrom catalogued a collection that had survived for thousands of years. She modelled that in several different contexts, one of which David wrote of in the article above.

            And in all of that complexity, I am clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the long term self interests of every individual (even the most wealthy and powerful in the current system) is tied up in us delivering security of life and liberty to every individual.

            And if you think things are diverse now, wait until the economic brakes come off and every individual has the freedom to self actualise and explore whatever sets of possibility spaces they responsibly choose (where such responsibility includes conscious risk mitigation for all significant risks to others and the environment we all share), in whatever self selected groupings arise.

            In this sense, I am all for evonomics, which to me means evolving our economic system (in the classical sense of economics being the management of our household, in the largest sense of our joint house, this planet we live on), beyond its current myopic focus on markets and money as management tools.

            And I seen that being in the nature of the systemic playing fields we create, the sorts of boundaries and incentives, at recursive levels.

            Actually doing that will require a detailed knowledge of all the strategic levels of highly evolved systems, as well as a sound knowledge of complex systems, ecology, quantum mechanics, automation, biology, engineering, and many other disciplines.

            That is as simple as it gets.
            Try making it any more simple, and it aint going to work!

            This is not a trivial issue.
            And it is a real issue.
            And it does seem to me to be an issue that has real solutions that will work in the real world.

          • Peter Mersch

            My hat is off to you sir, I could not conduct a conversation like this in any other language – I have enough trouble in English 😉

            Thanks for the complements. Indeed, it is not easy for me. I studied mathematics, physics and computer science, but I’ve always had a hard time in languages.
            Language is one of the biggest human problems. I guess there are already theories eg. in Hungarian or Portuguese which are much better than the best known theories in English. But nobody will ever hear about them because they were not translated into English.

            Yes that is what Newton did, and he did a great job, much improved the old understandings, invented calculus along the way. And my understanding of the the universe today goes far beyond Newton, beyond anything he ever conceptualised. In fact just about everything that he believed true has now been disproven. We now have much better models, much more accurate, much greater complexity. And for certain purposes, Newton’s understandings are close enough. And in the bigger picture, we are way past Newton.

            Of course. The same happens to Darwin: He found the evolutionary principles for simple life, but not the general evolutionary principles. No scientific theory lasts forever.
            I am pretty sure that Einstein had never found general relativity without Newton’s work.
            Newton is an interesting case for some other reasons too. I often read statements like this (from biologists): “The meaning of life is to reproduce genes.”
            See that discussion here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/is-the-meaning-of-your-life-to-make-babies/
            Newton had no children. He did not reproduce his genes. But he was very successful in spreading his knowledge. For the Systemic Theory of Evolution the meaning of life consists in reproducing competencies. The reproduction of genes (genetic competencies) is a special case of that.

            But building a GPS network requires both QM and General relativity, Newtonian principles simply cannot deliver a working GPS system.

            Sure. I am discussing that in my book “Die egoistische Information” (Selfish information).

            And evolution is like that for me.
            It has so many levels, so many strategic interactions, and they are all very important to the big picture, just as quantum mechanics is essential to understanding the distribution of matter and the properties of the materials that make up this universe and make life possible on this planet.

            Yes, living systems, eco systems and the evolution of life are all very complex.
            But galaxies with its suns, planets, moons, asteroids etc. can be complex too (not as complex as life, but still very complex). The question is: Does that mean that the gravitational law must be necessarily complex too? Newton’s and Einstein’s answers were ‘no’.

            If you look at the big picture, the earth is about 500 million km^2. Since I am interested in energy in this paragraph, let’s reduce that to a circle facing the sun for simplicity, giving about 130 million km2. About a third of that is too cold, 2/3rds of the remainder is water, and we want to leave at least half the land in a natural state. That leaves us with 14 million km2, or 1,400 m^2 per person.

            This makes sense. The current global farmland (or whatever the name for that is) is 15,000,000,000,000 m^2, which gives 1,500 m^2 per person.

            It takes about 100m^2 of intensive horticulture to feed a person with reasonable redundancy. So if you used only a 5th of the remaining land as solar cells, 20% efficiency, then you have about 50KW continuous power available for every person.
            That is enough to sustain a very high lifestyle.

            I am not sure about that. The energy consumption of every German citizen is currently almost 50.000 KWh per year. 1 m^2 solar cells delivers typically 100 KWh per year. So you would need 500 m^2 solar cells for every German citizen, which gives 40,000 km^2 for the German population. The size of the farmland in Germany currently is 160.000 km^2.
            But you would need other resources too (not just energy) and constant processes of maintenance and renovation (Second Law + adaption). Plus the production processes. The world would operate at its limits directly from the beginning.

            That way we don’t have to do anything for anyone else, and most of us like doing things for other people some of the time, so most of us will continue to do that when both we and they agree it is appropriate.

            I am pretty sure, that this would not work. In a land of Cockaigne there would be no adaption, no evolution, no life anymore.

            But there is no way to do that within the existing money system, as market systems value scarcity and we need universal abundance (which by definition has no market value). The technology is easy compared to getting people to look at things differently.

            No, market systems produce usually abundance, not scarcity. And this is one if their biggest problems.

            Money, this system we have of judging value based on scarcity, doesn’t work when faced with technologies capable of delivering universal abundance.
            Any such technology has the same value as air (nothing). Yet air is arguably the single most valuable good for every human being.

            For me this is just fiction. I imagine a meteorite as it travels to the earth, but nobody living in that land of Cockaigne takes it serious.

            In the past, markets and money have performed many valuable roles, in arbitrage, in coordination, in signal generation and transmission, in risk mitigation, …. And all of those things can now be done much faster and much more accurately and simply by fully automated systems.

            Well, I worked for Space Shuttle and Spacelab, and I can only say: I do not believe this.

            Competency loss is a very small part of what evolution selects for.

            I couldn’t find any argument for that.

            The layers of strategic systems present in even the most uneducated human adult are amazingly complex.
            Competency loss prevention is a simple idea that works well in some contexts, but isn’t actually what is going on in the reality behind the ideas most of the time. Mostly it is much more complex, much more dynamic, many layers of simultaneously operating systems.

            That’s just a claim.

            In the simple model of the Tragedy of the Commons that you described, the collapse of the entire system means they all die.

            Definitely not. As all participants are competency loss preventing systems, the death of all agents is a very unlikely outcome.

            Alternatives that don’t die, get to survive – evolution works that way.
            Lin Ostrom catalogued a collection that had survived for thousands of years. She modelled that in several different contexts, one of which David wrote of in the article above.

            The Tragedy of the Commons I described is not in contradiction with that. Instead it tries to describe, why the participants act in a specific way. Why do the cattle farmers try to put additional cattle on the land? Why is Apple constantly improving its iPhone? Did any customer ask for that? Is Apple a human being or why is it acting like that? Why are trying people, who have earned billions of money, make even more money?
            There is a simple answer: It is competency loss preventing.
            The lack of Elinor Ostrom’s models is, that they do not explain, why the participating agents behave in a way that it usually comes to the Tragedy of the Commons. If you can explain that, you can think theoretically about the given problem, otherwise you are forced to do just empirical work (“we found that it usually works under the following conditions …”).

            And in all of that complexity, I am clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the long term self interests of every individual (even the most wealthy and powerful in the current system) is tied up in us delivering security of life and liberty to every individual.

            Oh, really? Just recently we still had slavery. Or Hitler. Currently we have the IS. And again slavery.

            And if you think things are diverse now, wait until the economic brakes come off and every individual has the freedom to self actualise and explore whatever sets of possibility spaces they responsibly choose (where such responsibility includes conscious risk mitigation for all significant risks to others and the environment we all share), in whatever self selected groupings arise.

            I think it is more likely that the sun rises in the west and goes down in the east.

            In this sense, I am all for evonomics, which to me means evolving our economic system (in the classical sense of economics being the management of our household, in the largest sense of our joint house, this planet we live on), beyond its current myopic focus on markets and money as management tools.

            Still no word about the human superorganisms called multinational corporations. They are the agents with the almost unlimited resources, they are ruling the world. Markets and money are no longer driven by humans, they are driven by human superorganisms (which are competency loss preventing systems too). That’s the main problem.

            And I see that being in the nature of the systemic playing fields we create, the sorts of boundaries and incentives, at recursive levels.
            Actually doing that will require a detailed knowledge of all the strategic levels of highly evolved systems, as well as a sound knowledge of complex systems, ecology, quantum mechanics, automation, biology, engineering, and many other disciplines.
            That is as simple as it gets.
            Try making it any more simple, and it aint going to work!
            This is not a trivial issue.
            And it is a real issue.
            And it does seem to me to be an issue that has real solutions that will work in the real world.

            And therefore this will never happen. Amen.

          • This is not the Land of Cockaigne.
            I am not for a moment suggesting that all comforts and pleasures are immediately at hand.

            I have survived a terminal cancer diagnosis by essentially ignoring all of the deep biological demands for comforts and pleasures and doing what seemed most likely to optimise my survival probabilities.

            I am suggesting that survival needs for all would be met, with a reasonable margin.
            I am suggesting that such is in fact a requirement if anyone is to be serious about exploring any of the infinite sets of possibilities available to be explored.

            I am not suggesting that freedom is without constraint.
            I am suggesting that we are continually doing our best to optimise freedom with the constraints of social and ecological responsibility.
            And that is not a simple exercise.

            I am also clear that the incentive sets delivered by markets are not compatible with universal abundance of anything.

            Put another way – poverty for many is a systemic feature of any market based system.

            I live at 42 deg South, the cells on the roof of my house operate at about 16.8% efficiency and deliver a little over 230 KWhrs/yr/m^2.
            Higher efficiency cells in equatorial desert regions can do a lot better.

            Put simply, in a strategic sense, multi national corporations tend to be cheating strategies on the general cooperative framework that most people live in. The entire finance and political systems tend to be generally characterisable as cheating strategies.

            Games theory is clear, unless there are effective mechanisms in place to detect and punish cheating strategies, all cooperative entities are vulnerable to cheating, and that gets ugly quickly.

            Cheating strategies have taken over.

            That makes the entire system unstable, for everyone, cheats and cooperators alike.
            If the cheats are too short sighted to see where their long term interest lies, then the results will not be pretty.

            I am still cautiously optimistic that enlightened self interest will prevail, and we will all benefit from automation.
            After 30 years of running a software company, I know it is possible, and I also know it is not a trivial set of projects.

          • Peter Mersch

            Put another way – poverty for many is a systemic feature of any market based system.

            No, it is not. Any alternative system so far produced more poverty and more inequality.

            Put simply, in a strategic sense, multi national corporations tend to be cheating strategies on the general cooperative framework that most people live in.

            Multi national (or global) is the big problem in this context, because control is still local (national). In former times Deutsche Bank was a pure German bank (as its name indicates). As long as this was the case, it could be controlled by German government. Today it is a global bank. And now it is cheating. And often these corporations have to cheat, because they are fighting with the Tragedy problem as well.

            Think of a big multi national corporation which is able to save 1 billion dollars by relocating its headquarters to a small Caribbean state where it has to pay just 1% tax. As the corporation is a competency loss preventing system (as all of its staff members are too) it will probably use the opportunity as long as there is neither control nor punishment.

            But all competing corporations are as well competency loss preventing systems. If one corporation would save 1 billion dollar (which could be invested into better products and services), they all would have a disadvantage. So they are forced to use the Caribbean opportunity as well (as long as there is no control and punishment).

            It is the same situation as with doping. If one sportsman uses drugs, all competing sportsmen are forced to take them too, otherwise they will have a disadvantage. If all sportsmen in the US are controlled for doping but in Russia they are not, sportsmen in the US would have a disadvantage. Therefore: All have to compete under the same conditions with the same global control and punishments, otherwise it will not work.

            You can explain all this extremely plausible and simple with the “competency loss preventing” paradigm and without becoming political, emotional, religious or relying on conspiracy theories.

          • Hi Peter

            I see how difficult this is to get.

            I agree that for most of history markets did provide high social utility in terms the promoted the general welfare, as long as there were sufficient strategies present to prevent dominance by cheating strategies. I have said that consistently.
            I am not focused on the past, but on the future.

            And the legal systems are now so dominated by the interests of the money systems that no other systems are possible in practice. One cannot control land without a source of money to pay land taxes. One cannot travel without paying travel taxes, etc.

            Competency loss prevention is simply another name for short term self interest in an environment dominated by short term incentive systems (quarterly profit statements).

            At the deeper level human behaviour is dominated by two major strategic classes which are context sensitive.
            In groups where there are sufficient resources for all to have a “fair” share, we can be highly cooperative.
            In groups where there are insufficient resources for all to have a fair share, we become very competitive.
            That can vary, over context, space and time, and we can display multiple simultaneous modalities in situations with multiple simultaneous contexts.
            We have many levels of subconscious context identification and behaviour/strategy selection mechanisms.
            We have many levels of subconscious systems that prevent us from consciously anticipating our own behaviour in competitive situations (for to do so would make us vulnerable to exploitation by opponents capable of reading hints of choices – basic games theory, theory of moves stuff).

            At one level we each have these mechanisms encoded in our DNA, in the structure of our brains.

            At another level there are recursive elements of these strategic systems encoded in many levels of culture, from simple punishment systems, to concepts like sins and virtues, through many levels of legal and “cultural” and economic and ethical and strategic systems.

            At every level, in every one of those systems, individual action is a complex mix of strategies across contexts.

            We are capable of generating recursively more complex abstract “spaces” but many do not.

            All of these many levels of strategy in action exist simultaneously. Plato explicitly identified two such levels in the Republic.
            I am clear that there is no potential limit on the levels available – the set is potentially infinite, though in practice most people only explore very small numbers (0 and 1 being most common, with very few people making it to double digits, and I am not aware of anyone having made it to triple digits – I have only personally explored into the low double digits).

            Plato also explicitly states in the Republic that there are situations in reality where one level can “trump” another. That appears to be recursively true through all levels, at least in logic and in my limited explorations of the first few levels.

            I am also clear that boolean logic is but the simplest of a potentially infinite class of logics and truth values.

            I am also clear that hard causality is but the simplest class of possible probability spaces (with only two possibilities 0 & 1).

            QM clearly indicates that the reality we live in is not hard causality, and it does approximate it at some levels.

            Newton’s idea of gravity is a very simplistic approximation. It works in practice to within degrees of accuracy. It is simply an inverse square relationship of radius to area of a sphere (flux density in a sense).
            That works where space is reasonably flat, but fails at higher curvatures – hence the need for relativity when doing GPS systems. Time also seems to be a local, not a universal phenomenon, but we are all in roughly the same place going at roughly the same speed, hence the common concept of universal time (it is a useful approximation in practice).

            We are way past the utility of simplistic notions like “competency loss prevention”.
            Agent based modelling of actions within perceived value sets works.

            Most people inherit their value sets from genetics and culture. Very few are aware of the depths of either. Fewer still make personal choices that go beyond either.
            Few develop competencies to allow conscious level override of all of them and develop conscious influence over the context selecting subsystems of brain. Fewer still develop models that go beyond any culture.

            When one does get into that space, one becomes very conscious of the heuristic nature of all knowledge, and the depths to which evolution (differential survival of populations of variants) defines who we each are as individuals, in our probabilities of formation and expression of habits of thought, in the probabilities of the levels of models of reality that can arise in such internal environments, with resultant probabilities of strategies and phenotypic actions etc).

            I have had some amazing conversations, with very interesting people, in many different social contexts. And over the last 6 years I have personally seen that most people would rather die than change basic habits like food preference (and more than half are willing to make a start, but less than half stick to it with the level of consistency required – so it is a very interesting, and changing, distribution).

            I am not particularly political, emotional, religious, or reliant on conspiracies. And in complex strategic environments, conspiracies happen, and not everything is a conspiracy.

            Once one starts to build a catalogue of experience with the infinite set of classes of unpredictable systems, it does have an impact on strategies.

            There is often a very uncertain territory between enabling freedom and descending into life threatening chaos.

            I am all about risk mitigation – to threats to both life and liberty, applied universally.
            I make no claim to infallibility (quite the converse).
            All I have is the probabilities I have.
            In my world, anyone claiming anything harder than that simply displays their ignorance of the infinities of possibilities surrounding us.

            In that context – competency loss prevention isn’t sufficient – much more is required. It is Newtonian. We are already well into relativistic quantum spaces.

          • Peter Mersch

            I am not focused on the past, but on the future.

            You are not focusing on the future but on utopias and fictions.

            And the legal systems are now so dominated by the interests of the money systems

            I do not know what is meant by this. Just words.

            Competency loss prevention is simply another name for short term self interest in an environment dominated by short term incentive systems

            This is complete nonsense. Even producing and raising offspring is competency loss preventing, and this is definetly not “short term” (actually there are different time preferences for competency loss preventing, but I guess you never heard about this common economical concept). So why talking this way if you have no knowledge about the theory and concepts behind this.

            In Brockman, John (Hrsg.) (2013): This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works, New York, NY: Harper Perennial, S. 191f, Peter Atkins writes:

            There is a wonderful simplicity in the view that events occur because things get worse. I have in mind the second law of thermodynamics and the fact that all natural change is accompanied by an increase in entropy. (…)

            Overall, there is an increase in disorder as the world progresses, but locally structures, including cathedrals and brains, dinosaurs and dogs, piety and evil deeds, poetry and diatribes, can be thrown up as local abatements of chaos. (…)

            Is it then too fanciful to imagine intellectual creativity, or just plain inconsequential reverie, as being driven likewise? At some kind of notional rest, the brain is a hive of electric and synaptic activity. The metabolic processes driven by the digestion of food can result in the ordering not of brick into cathedral, not of amino acid into protein, but current into concept, artistic work, foolhardy decision, scientific understanding.

            Even that other great principle, natural selection, can be regarded as an extraordinarily complex reticulated unwinding of the world, with the changes that take place in the biosphere and its evolution driven ultimately by descent into disorder. Is it then any wonder that I regard the second law as a great enlightenment? That from so simple a principle great consequences flow is, in my view, a criterion of the greatness of a scientific principle. No principle, I think, can be simpler than that things get worse, and no consequences greater than the universe of all activity, so surely this law is the greatest of all.

            These are bold sentences. Unfortunately Atkins does not show how this could work. In my book “Die egoistische Information” I have shown, what has to be added (= all living systems are comparative competency loss preventing systems) to make it work. But the scientific arguments based on the Second Law (in an information theoretical formulation) and the mathematical proofs are by far to difficult (and my English by far too limited) to explain everything here. You could read my 776 pages book in German otherwise.

            The principle “competency loss prevention” is a consequence of the Second Law and not something you are imaginating (without knowing).

            BTW did you ever hear about the Red Queen Principle (in economics and based on Lews Carroll)? Management consultants use the term all the time, to make clear, that the competition is not sleeping. So if the corporation does not run forward, it falls behind.

            What is the driving force behind this principle? Nothing else than comparative competency loss prevention.

            And of course: The Red Queen Principle is just another manifestation of the Tragedy of the Commons. As long as the resources are not limited, you have the Red Queen Principle, if they are limited you get the Tragedy, that’s all.

            At the deeper level human behaviour is dominated by two major strategic classes which are context sensitive.
            In groups where there are sufficient resources for all to have a “fair” share, we can be highly cooperative.
            In groups where there are insufficient resources for all to have a fair share, we become very competitive.

            This is definitely not true. Cooperation often happens because the resources are limited. You can see that all over in nature.

            But there are 2 other basic classes of behavior:
            1. Based on disposal rights (property rights) on resources.
            2. Based on commons.

            Most human economy (and intersexual selection in nature) is based on property rights, nature (and intrasexual selection) is mainly based on commons. The Tragedy is about commons.

            I am surprised that you do not mention property, though this here is a site about economy. Without property there would be no Apple or Microsoft and we were sitting still on trees.

            That can vary, over context, space and time, and we can display multiple simultaneous modalities in situations with multiple simultaneous contexts.
            We have many levels of subconscious context identification and behaviour/strategy selection mechanisms.
            We have many levels of subconscious systems that prevent us from consciously anticipating our own behaviour in competitive situations (for to do so would make us vulnerable to exploitation by opponents capable of reading hints of choices – basic games theory, theory of moves stuff).

            With this attitude Newton and Einstein had never found the gravitation laws and how everything in space works together. They would still talk about moons surrounding planets and planets surrounding suns and asteriods and comets and meteorits moving in different directions.

            At one level we each have these mechanisms encoded in our DNA, in the structure of our brains.

            At another level there are recursive elements of these strategic systems encoded in many levels of culture, from simple punishment systems, to concepts like sins and virtues, through many levels of legal and “cultural” and economic and ethical and strategic systems.

            At every level, in every one of those systems, individual action is a complex mix of strategies across contexts.

            We are capable of generating recursively more complex abstract “spaces” but many do not.

            Peter Atkins (in the citation above) obviously has a different view. He thinks in general principles as most scientists do.

            Newton’s idea of gravity is a very simplistic approximation. It works in practice to within degrees of accuracy. It is simply an inverse square relationship of radius to area of a sphere (flux density in a sense).
            That works where space is reasonably flat, but fails at higher curvatures – hence the need for relativity when doing GPS systems. Time also seems to be a local, not a universal phenomenon, but we are all in roughly the same place going at roughly the same speed, hence the common concept of universal time (it is a useful approximation in practice).

            Einstein’s concept of gravity is a bit more complicated the Newton’s concept, but not very much. So we still talk about a simple principle. It is as simple, that we can built GPS networks.

            We are way past the utility of simplistic notions like “competency loss prevention”.

            Oh that sounds strange. Currently biology is explained by some very simple principles, much more simplistic than comparative competency loss preventing. Richard Dawkins even tried to explain all biology on “selfish gene”.

            Basically you are saying, all biological theory currently is wrong because it is based on simplistic principles and notions.

            Thís was btw one of the main objections against Darwin from religious persons.

            In that context – competency loss prevention isn’t sufficient – much more is required. It is Newtonian. We are already well into relativistic quantum spaces.

            So in your view it is better to have no theory about gravitation than a Newtonian theory.

            Currently we have some theory about the biological evolution but no theory about the cultural evolution. I have read almost any theory which is published in English and German and they are all useless. None of them was able to explain 5 Percent of what I am explaining with the Systemic Theory of Evolution (Ricardo’s Theory, Tragedy of the Commons, Red Queen, Social Evolution, Cultural Evolution, Technical Evolution, Evolution of biological superorganisms not based on relationship, Population Ecology of Organizations to name a few). At most they could explain the evolution of simple stone age weapons. Not more.

            You have absolutely no theory. You are talking that we are “already well into relativistic quantum spaces”, but you don’t know what this means. You do not deliver a theory which fulfills the this requirement. You are only dreaming.

            The same is with your fiction about a fully automated world. That’s just a dream. Why not solving simpler problems, eg. the fully automated translation from one language into another. That really would help mankind.

            For me this discussion is going to nowhere, so I finish it here.

          • Hi Peter

            Agree – the conversation is not going where either of us intends, the language barrier is too high I suspect. I am not certain what you mean, and I am very confident you have not understood what I wrote as I intended.
            Your assertions about me are false, and it seems likely you believe them.

            So yes – it seems likely it has gotten too messy to clean up in the time either of us has available.

  • Anna Krystalli

    I think the posts about immigration miss the point that the world is now at a stage of global cooperation where the nation state is not the highest level of selection. The most successful nations with the biggest economies and highest living standards are generally the more open and cooperative, if not with everyone, at least in larger coalitions of nations. Immigration is part of such cross-national cooperation as are trade deals and supranational institutions like the UN, EU, NATO etc. Of course, all things have negative side-effects and we are currently dealing with the fall out of these. With respect to immigration, I don’t doubt that resulting culture clashes can reduce social capital within groups and subgroups and needs to be honestly discussed and addressed. Having said that, I personally believe these larger, more cooperative organisational structures and the processes that maintain them were selected for for a reason and do represent the most advanced form of organisation and cooperation in our history. So I am personally very skeptical of rhetoric aiming to send us inward and towards smaller ‘purer’ groups as some of the posts below might suggest.

  • geonomist

    So economists think, not knowing any anthropologists, who’d already solved it.