A Plan for the Revolution

I say “A Plan” instead of “The Plan” because there are many paths to our goals. What are our goals? One of the first steps for a revolution is to state goals almost everybody can agree on. Almost everyone has a strong sense of justice, fairness. Rather we have a strong sense of unfairness. We easily sense when someone isn’t doing their fair share in any group activity — work, games, life in general. We don’t like cheaters, freeloaders. So if our goals are based on justice and fairness, most people will easily agree with and accept our revolutionary goals. Stated simply we want a political and economic system that fairly distributes the goods and services produced by people working within the system fairly to all people in the system. The first half of fairness is that everyone who can work should work. The other half of fairness is that the system should provide, one way or another, the things people need in order to be productive. In order to be physically and mentally productive, people need water, food, clothing, housing, health care, education, minimal coercion and violence, and maximal freedom to interact with others consistent with the integrity and well-being of others. Any system we build must be consistent with the earth’s limited resources and must be consistent with preserving the natural world. Our goal is to have such a system, to build such a system, to step by step modify our present system so that after each step, the new system is closer to the goal.

Our goal system will not be perfect. No human system is perfect. It is not a utopia. There will always be problems. There will always be things that could be improved. In the real world there are always limits. In the real world nothing is infinite. We cannot know for sure that we will be able to build such a system. We can only change our present systems, move them, one step at a time, in the direction of our goal.

Next we must spread the idea of our goal to a large number of people, to a larger and larger number of people. We must convince enough people that it is possible to take the first steps toward our goal. We can show them that the first steps, and later steps, will already in and of themselves, lead to benefits for almost everyone.

In order to take the first steps we must convince people to give up some of their limiting beliefs such as: 1) There is only one best economic system and it’s the one we have now. 2) It is hopeless. 3) Positive change is impossible. 4) Our present situation is a reflection of human nature and human nature is fixed so we can’t change anything. 5) Nothing’s wrong with our present system. 6) This is the way it was meant to be. 7) We are not smart enough to do it. 8) Our democracy has been high jacked so it’s hopeless. 9) It will take too long. 10) The mass media are owned and controlled by the 1% so it’s hopeless.

These and many other similar beliefs are real and are real obstacles to change. We must use all methods we have, consistent with our goals, to convince people to move beyond their limiting beliefs. To be consistent with our goals we must not use violence, coercion, lies, or any other methods detrimental to mental or physical health.

What are some methods we can use to help people change their minds? Education in the broadest sense of the word. Spread the truth. Expose error. Use the internet, social media. Infiltrate the mass media. The 1% owns the mass media and think they control it, but they don’t control it 100%. Nobody controls anything 100%. Use videos, humor, music, art in every form. Use and further develop memetics, the science of the spread and evolution of ideas. Work on the 1% or the lesser rich. I doubt they are monolithic. They are not all stupid. Some of them (and we would not need many) might see the wisdom of our revolution.

All the while we are helping people get over their self-limiting beliefs, we also work to spread ideas that speed up the process. We spread ideas that improve people’s thinking and decision-making — for example the knowledge about errors in human thinking and decision-making in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. We spread ideas that improve people’s interpersonal communication — for example the knowledge about how to deeply understand other people and work with them in Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Non-violent Communication”. We spread knowledge about how our thinking and emotions work together when we make decisions and choices — good ones and bad ones — for example in books by Antonio Damasio (“Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain”, “The Feeling of What Happens”, “Decartes’ Error”), Joseph LeDoux (“The Emotional Brain”), Paul Ekman (“Emotions Revealed”), Daniel Goleman (“Emotional Intelligence”). When people have more correct and useable knowledge about how to think better and make better decisions and choices, and when they know how to deeply communicate with other people, they first of all will be less subject to propaganda. This, if nothing else, will diminish the power of the mass media.

As more and more people learn to think better and make better choices and decisions for themselves they will more easily accept new information and knowledge to replace many of their limiting beliefs mentioned above. People need both — both new knowledge about the social world, knowledge about how the present systems work and what new systems are possible — and new knowledge about themselves, how they can think and choose better, so they can reject misleading and false propaganda, and get out of their trapping and self-limiting thinking.

So the revolution is about spreading new information and knowledge to people about our present social/political/economic systems, how and in what ways they might be changed, the revolutionary goals, the step by step method, the obstacles to change in our present systems, possible ways to overcome all these obstacles, as well as new information and knowledge about how to improve their own abilities to understand themselves and improve their own thinking and choices.

Next we will look in more detail at the obstacles to change and how to overcome them.

Revolution as Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Can we predict the future? Sure we can. But the question is how often are our predictions right. How successful are we when we predict the future? One principle seems clear: Near term predictions are more likely to be correct than longer term predictions. Weather models are good out to about 5 or 7 days. We can predict eclipses and orbits of the planets for hundreds of years very accurately. But here too as the time into the future increases, the predictions become less accurate.

What about social stuff? Some things are harder to predict than others. Will the US continue to exist in 2020? Most likely, almost surely, yes, in one form or another. Will it exist in 2100? Surely nobody knows or can know. Are human activities causing global warming? Very likely yes. Will present trends continue through 2100? We really don’t know. If they do, it is very likely bad things will happen. Notice that some of these statements are not very specific. More specific situations are less likely to occur than less specific situations. Certainly some bad things will happen in 2100 no matter what else happens. Certainly some good things will happen in 2100 too. So it is easy to make correct predictions if the predictions are general enough. The particular is harder to predict accurately than the general.

Sometimes global properties of collections of things can be accurately predicted even though the actions of the specific things in the collection cannot each be predicted. The random motions of molecules in a confined gas give rise to simple relations between the gas temperature and its pressure even though we can’t possibly know what each molecule is doing. Macroeconomics is based on a similar idea. So there may be some hope of making accurate predictions regarding the behavior of collections of people.

On the other hand, Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” says:

“The often used image of the ‘march of history’ implies order and direction. Marches, unlike strolls or walks, are not random. We think that we should be able to explain the past by focusing on either large social movements and cultural and technological developments or the intentions and abilities of a few great men. The idea that large historical events are determined by luck is profoundly shocking, although it is demonstrably true. It is hard to think of the history of the twentieth century, including its large social movements, without bringing in the role of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. But there was a moment in time, just before an egg was fertilized, when there was a fifty-fifty chance that the embryo that became Hitler could have been a female. Compounding the three events, there was a probability of one-eighth of a twentieth century without any of the three great villains and it is impossible to argue that history would have been roughly the same in their absence. The fertilization of these three eggs had momentous consequences, and it makes a joke of the idea that long-term developments are predictable.” — Kahneman p. 218.

So what does all this have to do with the revolution? The idea is that if we can change enough people’s minds about certain things — in particular about our economic and political systems —  then this will change their behavior towards these systems and they will change these systems so that the systems work towards the human goals of fair and just distribution of the human necessities to all people. And we have said that if most people can come to understand, accept, and use the new scientific knowledge about how human thinking actually works, as described in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (and elsewhere), then they will improve their own thinking and thus be less susceptible to propaganda, more open to change, more able to see the need for change, and more able to make the changes needed.

So this is a kind of social prediction. Does Kahneman’s comment make this prediction an absurd joke? No it does not because we are not counting on just the simple random diffusion of ideas. We are going to push the ideas for the changes to our economic and political systems that we want, and we are going to push the ideas that will help people think better, help people make better choices and decisions. Simple diffusion might get us there, but a real goal directed revolution where we spread the revolutionary goals and ideas, and where we also spread ideas that support and encourage and facilitate the acceptance and use of the revolutionary ideas, is much more likely to get us there, to get us to better systems, systems that more justly distribute the earth’s limited resources and the produce of human cooperative work to all people. And the changes will happen faster.

Rather than a passive diffusion of new ideas, the revolution is an active process of spreading not only new ideas but also new and better methods of generating, spreading, and getting people to accept and use new ideas. We want to identify and spread new ideas that speed up the generation, spread, acceptance, and use of new ideas. This is one thing improving human thinking does. This is why Kahneman’s book is relevant to how to make a revolution.

The revolution is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How to improve your thinking

We are examining the question of whether humans can improve their thinking on the basis of the scientific facts presented by Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. On page 472 he said “… I have improved only in my ability to recognize situations in which errors are likely …” But this is already a significant improvement. Kahneman learned to recognize such situations the hard way — maybe the hardest way — by devoting his life to the scientific discovery and description of these situations “in which errors are likely”. We do not have to do nearly as much work as Kahneman did in order to recognize these situations because we can learn them either on our own (start by reading Kahneman’s book) or we can learn them through our education processes — in one way or another, at least to some extent, we can learn which situations are dangerous and which ones are not Then when we recognize such dangerous situations, when we “recognize the signs that [we] are in a cognitive minefield, slow down and ask for reinforcement from System 2.”  In other words, slow down and think slow. Kahneman (and other psychologists) did the discovery work. All we have to do is to learn the results and use them in our thinking. Thus we improve our thinking. As I said, this is already a significant improvement in our thinking.

It can be very discouraging now to see the mistakes, fallacies, and general ignorance displayed by economists, financial players, politicians, decision makers of all types — all of us. We make decisions, choices, little ones and big ones, every day of our lives, minute by minute. One could read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and despair. I reject that. Every fallacy, every mistake, every error in thinking identified and described at least opens up the possibility of fixing it or avoiding it. By learning and understanding the limits of our real human thinking now, we can improve it, we can get rid of some of the limits now and in the not too distant future. Some day there will be no more stock pickers (chapter 20, The Illusion of Validity).

And by the way, we can improve our thinking too if we stop using war memes — “cognitive minefield”.