Friday, May 23, 2014

The Resource-Patterns Model of Life

So far in this blog we have seen an introduction to our model of life.  That is, we have seen a list of assumptions to be made in the model, and we have seen two examples which use the model: Tabletop Critters and Mainstream Media.  Now it is time to attempt a direct description of the model.

This model is going to need a name. It will not do to keep on calling it "our model of life" as in the first sentence above.  Here is the name I propose: the Resource-Patterns Model of Life.

Outline of the Resource-Patterns Model of Life
The previously-listed assumptions apply.  As you may recall, the first assumption is Living Things exist in a Universe.  Then there are several assumptions about the properties of Living Things.  Finally there are assumptions about the Universe; notably the Universe contains Resource Patterns. (I sometimes abbreviate: Living Thing as LT, Resource-Pattern as RP.)

Living Things survive by finding and imbibing resources.  If LTs don’t find enough resources their numbers will decrease.  If LTs find abundant resources their numbers can and probably will increase.

In each increment of time each LT has a range of choices about how to act.  Probably most of these possible actions will be useless in that these actions will not contribute to the effort to imbibe resources.  So a LT needs to narrow its range of choices.  This focusing of choices is the principal requirement of the LT's calculating capacity.

Any particular supply of a necessary resource must be finite, assuming that this supply has been discovered by LTs at a particular place and time.  This supply can be exploited only until it runs out.  Ongoing life therefore requires an ongoing discovery of new supplies of necessary resources.

Cooperation may help LTs to exploit some RPs.  Consider three cases:
  • Some resources are abundant but far away, too far away for a single LT to exploit.  But such resources might be exploitable if a number of LTs combine in a linked network of trade.
  • Other resources are near at hand but too difficult to extract without specialized tools or knowledge.  Such resources might be exploited if specialized LTs cooperate.
  • Some resources may be extracted only through an effort which continues during a span of time.  It makes sense for individual LTs to participate throughout that span of time only if the environment is stable and predictable.  The environment can become more predictable if the future behavior of other LTs becomes more predictable, if the LTs can somehow form rules of cooperation.

Thus, if a set of LTs can discover modes of cooperation, that set of LTs may flourish in an environment where a similar set of LTs, but without cooperation, would perish.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bias in Mainstream Media Is a Natural Consequence of a Democratic Constitution

In the previous post, Tabletop Critters, I showed a use of our model of life.  That post showed how a dense population of living things may owe its life to a pattern of resources in the environment.

This post will give another example.  It will attempt to convince you that the resources available in a modern, democratic nation give rise to bias in mainstream media.  My text copied below appeared previously in my classmate's Conscience Warrior blog.

Many people complain that mainstream media have a pro-government bias.  But, if there is such a bias, why would it exist?  I offer a theory.

First, let us notice that workers in mainstream media (henceforth MSM) and workers in government can both gain when they find ways to cooperate.  A MSM reporter can help a politician by writing a friendly story.  A politician can help a reporter by giving newsworthy information.  Both can gain if they fall into a pattern of mutually supportive exchange.

But, contrary to that, the relation between MSM and government does not always look like a scene of peaceful exchange.  MSM publish hostile reports as well as supportive reports.  The political scene is divided into factions, we know.  Each faction has players from both MSM and government.  These factions war with each other.

Nonetheless, unless I am mistaken, there seems to be a sense in which the factions fight among themselves over one single thing: What will government do?  The factions contend over how powers of government – powers which are implicitly taken for granted – will be employed.  By engaging in this fight, the factions seem to imply they believe government should have powers such as those over which the factions fight.  We observe something like a family fight in which family members battle each other while remaining loyal nonetheless to the overall family.

We may wonder: What common interest binds these political factions together?  Consider the constitution of a democracy.  In the US the Constitution separates the media from the formal structures of government; we quite correctly believe that no formal relationship exists in the US between government and media. But might informal ties grow? The process of democratic government requires the media.  It could not work without the media.  This type of government has voters who elect representatives who go to capital cities and pass government laws.  Voters naturally want to be kept abreast of what the representatives are doing, during the present session, and what those representatives might do in future sessions.  The representatives need sources of news about what is happening in their districts.

So democratic government creates a large demand for news and views.  The demand in turn creates an environment with profit opportunities.  In this environment well-managed media companies may support staffs of editors, writers, and reporters.  So even though the democratic constitution does not provide explicit ways to pay media workers, still it creates an environment in which some media workers will be able to make a living.

Now, after presenting most of my argument, let me clarify what I mean by “mainstream media” or “MSM”.  Hopefully it is already becoming clear.  By “MSM” I mean those media organizations in which a substantial part of the work entails reporting on the process of democratic government. MSM keep us abreast of what government is doing in the present, and MSM also look to the future by educating the electorate on problems for which it is presumed government might play a future role.  MSM are employed by this attention-focusing question: How will we govern ourselves?

I have tried to argue that MSM workers are employed by the process of democratic government, although not in a relationship of direct government employment.  I suppose there is a tendency for employees to feel loyal to the structure which makes their jobs possible.  This is how I would explain a pro-government bias in MSM reporting.

Writers from MSM will bicker among themselves on what they believe government should do, whether A or B.  But implicitly the MSM writers from all factions seem to agree: We (meaning the government) must do something.  MSM seem to avoid the proposal that democratic government should be strictly limited, and should not have power to do either A or B.  There may be no paying role for MSM on an issue outside the power of government.  Thus we should not be surprised to perceive pro-government bias in MSM.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tabletop Critters

This example introduces use of the model of life which is being developed on this blog.

Imagine a flat surface, perhaps a tabletop, upon which some tiny, perhaps one-celled, critters live. These critters need both water and sugar to live, and this tabletop upon which they find themselves is basically a desert. The wind blows and occasionally deposits a few molecules of water or sugar within reach. This just barely enables them to survive and reproduce themselves.

Now suppose that onto this tabletop fate places a drop of water at some spot, and a crumb of sugar at another spot a centimeter from the water. Suppose that this distance, a centimeter, is much further than any one of these critters can travel in its entire lifetime, but suppose that the critters do have ability to pick up raw materials, carry them for small distances, and then drop them again.

This environmental feature, the pair of reserves of water and sugar, looks like a niche ready to be exploited. If the critters can learn appropriate rules of behavior, millions of them can start to live in a filament of trade between the water and sugar.

The critters who would make up this chain of trade would need to follow some simple rules. Such rules might be:
  1. If you see water on the left, carry it to the right and set it down.
  2. If you see sugar on the right, carry it to the left and set it down.
  3. If you get thirsty or hungry, help yourself to what you need from the materials that pass through your possession.
Now consider two points.
  1. The rules are not arbitrary. The rules work because they help the critters exploit an environmental feature which is bigger than any of the critters, and which none of the critters can change. So in a sense the environment in which the critters live determined the rules, more than the critters themselves.
  2. The perhaps-surprising fact that millions of critters can live successfully by following only a few simple rules derives from the simplicity of the environmental feature. The rules are simple because the feature (a distance separates the two essential resources) is simple.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Patterns of Resources in the Universe

This blog will develop and apply a model of life.  Here I give some assumptions which underlie the model. 

Living Things exist in a Universe.

Properties of Living Things

senses — living things can detect certain aspects of their surroundings.
ability to act — living things can attempt to act in particular ways.  Many such acts involve motor or muscular movement.  But other possible acts might be to wait idly or to calculate without moving. Living things can act to imbibe resources. Living things can act to reproduce themselves. Note however that a living thing's choice to act in a particular way does not guarantee that the attempted action will succeed.  Each attempt by a living thing to act might succeed or fail, depending upon circumstances.
purpose — living things have goals.  Typical goals might be to imbibe the resources necessary for life, to reproduce, or to gain security.
memory — living things have some ability to store a record of their experiences.
calculating capacity — living things can “think” about how to act.  Typically this calculation might consider: (1) the present state of the environment as determined through senses; (2) present purpose; (3) present store of resources; (4) memory of prior similar experiences. 
resource consumption — living things necessarily use up some of their store of resources in each increment of time.  The amount of consumption may depend upon the action undertaken.
resource storage — living things can store some of the resources which are necessary for their lives.  Typically living things can store an amount of each resource sufficient for multiple time increments, so that living things can spend some of their time in actions other than imbibing.
nondeterministic choice of actions — living things will employ their memories and calculating capacities to guide their choices of actions with as much "wisdom" as they can muster. But they will commonly find themselves with no definite knowledge about how to act. So, in order to avoid starvation which will certainly come if they remain idle, living things will sometimes guess how to act, selecting an act at random if need be.

Properties of the Universe

space — the universe has one or more dimensions.
resources — the universe contains raw materials and energy of the sorts required by living things.  Most of these resources are distributed in concentrations, i.e. in patterns. Such patterns of resources give rise to the prospect that living things may discover and exploit these patterns. The concentrations of resources vary widely in size, from tiny (perhaps atomic or subatomic) to huge (galactic or larger).
living things — the universe contains living things, in order to give some interest to our model.
time — time passes in the universe.  Resources and living things may move around with passage of time.

Obviously this model has been designed in sympathy with humans.  The living things could be us humans.  The universe could be the Earth.  But the model allows us to look at other implementations, at other “living things” and other “universes”.  These other implementations will ring with suggestions about our existence as humans, about our social orders.

Here I have listed many assumptions.  But note that I have titled this post “Patterns of Resources in the Universe”.  Thereby I highlight one of the assumptions.  I believe this one assumption leads to valuable and novel suggestions which will come from uses of this model.  Our social orders often reflect patterns of resources in the universe, as I seek to establish.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Statement of Purpose

Updated January 2016

This blog has a single purpose, being exposition of the Resource-Patterns Model of Life.

One-paragraph summary of the Resource-Patterns Model of Life (RPM)

We humans (and other living things) live in a universe in which the resources we need to survive are distributed in patterns — with some patterns being large or intricate so that we can exploit the patterns only through cooperation. Rules which enable such resource-pattern-dictated cooperation may be difficult to discover, and may be "discovered" spontaneously without anyone being conscious of the resource pattern being exploited. Resource patterns which may enable expansion of human life in centuries ahead may lie beyond the present range of human perception, as the resource patterns which enable the present level of human life were unknown in the 18th century. When cooperation succeeds and becomes a regular thing, the cooperating organizations become, in degrees, larger forms of life, as is commonly accepted by life-scientists. But the implications of RPM for social science remain largely unknown. These implications pertain to economics and psychology, affecting both individuals and groups. If we assume Darwinian survival has influenced our dispositions for both individual and group thinking, these dispositions derive in large part from necessity to discover resource patterns.

Work in this model may create a large scientific advance. This is a paradigm shift.

Book in Progress

On this blog I am posting draft chapters for a book. I am also posting notes and essays which may fold into the book. Here is an outline of the book.

Chapter 1 will contain material such as these two posts from 2014: May 16, May 23. Chapter 2 will contain such as these (also 2014): May 17, August 17, September 6, and December 23. Here are drafts of: Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5.

For a new reader the most understandable order may be to start at the beginning (May 16, 2014). Unfortunately this is opposite the order displayed in a blog which places the most recent work at the top.

Papers which Survey RPM

I have described this model before on a few occasions. Notably: