On viewing Society as a Multi Agent System


Humans are born with a lot of talent, for language, manual dexterity, control of external devices. We can say that a human is a super flexible agent that can manipulate the natural world in a high degree. One could abstract this view into defining a manipulator called human and assigning skills and degrees of freedom to it. This has probably been done already.

We humans are programmed by experiences mainly, stories are secondary, they are experiences of imagination, which can make us sensitive to real experiences, allow us to predict the outcome of events, even if we never experienced them in real life before. You can say language is a way to mimic sequential experiences such that in a real experience, say a walk through Paris, we see the Eiffel Tower, then we cross the Lena bridge, then we walk along the Trocadero pond, then up the stairs to the Palais the Chaillot. You may never have done it, but when you do some time in the future, you may remember reading this text and this will help you make sense of your experiences.

In short, based on the above, we are sequence learners, but the sequences we learn are all experiences unique to us. The experiences are moments we record in our neural nets. They can be extremely short, a thing that always amazes me, how come we can remember a moment from 20 years ago, one we did not even think was that special at the time.

At the same time we are error correctors for each other. We can if we share similar experiences, tell each other to cut and pase our sequences, our procedures and stories, so that they end up being more usefull, safer. We can by listening to others transfer the benefit of our highly real experiences to people with less experience. This makes our experiences a currency, it makes it worth it more to pay attention when you know you are doing something unique, you will be more usefull to others, you can make them more safe and secure. You have something to share and will gain status.

So from the above you can say that humans are agents that are programmed by stories and experiences, and that stories can reorganize and repurpose past experiences if the human involved believes there’s something to gain from listening to the story. We are open to editing if we are expecting to become more usefull, more important, happier, healthier. This is how adds work : You can enter this world if you pay attention to it. This is how dogs learn to behave, they try to show the behavior that is rewarded and will forget what is not rewarded. Humans can have much longer sequences though.

The human mind is not stabil or infallible. One of the problems is the expected reward of attending a sequence (story). This reward can be real or unreal. Humans can learn to love things simply by imitation. A smile will make us feel happy, and make us smile, we will have the same emotion as the person smiling (usually) and this will mean a full transfer of the meaning of an experience even though we don’t really experience anything to smile about. This is also how advertisement works. In a sense humans are fully programmable, except when the emotional charge of a story is not recognized or experienced. This happens when we are internally in another sequence, another place than the person that tries to impress us is aware of. Say a thief steals your wallet and smiles, his sequence is beneficial, but you are robbed, and not smiling.

Now there are many directions I can take this story above. The one I am interested in is that where we view humans exactly as a experience based story editor, world manipulator. A complex function or agent, with varying skills and abilities to discriminate dependent on experiences with the real world. Say we view all people like this. All boys, girls, men, women. of any kind anywhere on Earth. We have a planet with a vast amount of super varied minapulators, sensors, actuators, educators, controllers, etc. etc.

The next step is to define a goal for all this capacity. What are all these people supposed to achieve. Happiness, freedom, that is what we all want. This means a life without extreme challenges, a life where what we do satisfies our needs. You could even say a life where stories don’t make us feel short changed, uncomfortable, inferior or even superior. Behavioral adequacy is what makes people happy, so the right experiences, the right stories, no need for a lot of editing.

Of course this is one of the many options for goals to choose, because the goals anyone would choose for humans to strive for will be colored by different experiences. The brits got raided by the Vikings a lot (or Normans) and got tired. The stories did not leave them alone, so they prepared. And the last time they came from the North it didn’t end well. The goal was to prepare. But other people have had other stories, and some may even had almost no stories, simply because they lived unchallenged, did not have many painful experiences. Oblivion is not scary for them because they lived in it.

If we imagine a population with a clean story, meaning they do not have emotional trauma in the past, they are not trying to deal with enemies at the moment, they have adequate behaviour, a structure that everyone accepts because everyone is accepted (or thinks he/she is, utopain scifie movies abound about the illusion, for example Logans Run), then what huamans basically do is eat, sleep, procreate, and work to make it all happen. Life is organized in a way to produce sufficient food. Our diet does not make us overly agressive if its vegetarian. This is like a stabile rural or jungle or savanna community.

In such a world it is easy to see how to error correct. If a person has a trauma or a deficiency or an obsession with a specific other person or a hatred then he/she needs to be replaced by someone with a more balanced story. The law does this in our society. The judge takes the place of the more balanced person, with a book of stories and his/her experiences. This is how in a justice based society sanity is transplanted into the stories of the people living in the real world.

Now in this case there should be no hesitation to remove a person that is unhinged, that breaks the emotional barriers, the rules. Law is often explained in terms of punishment, but the point of law is to avoid degradation and emotional trauma. The punishment is a sad aspect that most people know doesn’t do any good. It should function as a plot point in the stories of people that intent do commit a crime “if I do that then I will be hanged”, and have an emotional charge of fear so people do not follow through with plans that are deemed criminal. A person that sets fire to a house is being judged by his story, his explanation. Justice checks if he was sane, then if he is he must hate someone or be a bad person in general. If he was just being stupid its another story entirely. Maybe it was an accident and we can’t just waste a person in jail or otherwise because of bad luck.

One of the main points I want to derive from this way of looking at people is that we are all the same. We are all capable of absorbing experiences and building stories, we all do this in a unique way but society does not need to adher to specific ways of interpretation or uniqueness to function. Its processes are not that hard to master. Grow food, take care of each other, educate, build, its the level of culture that you choose that makes it more or less hard for the individuals.

What is the maning of a life if you look from this world view? It is important, preserving life is the defining motive of morality. A society that disregards life is bound to desintegrate. All members of a society can error correct each others stories. But an essential part of the error correction is to have experiences that are morally sound, in other words the person aquiring the experiences is functioning socially in society. What is not essential for a person in moral terms is their station, their status. It is not morally wrong to remove a leader that is not morally sound, that makes people unhappy. Democracy was designed to make this possible.

The above shows that as long as real experiences create stories in people, and as long as people can transfer those stories either to sensitize or correct stories of others, with a clear goal of ensuring happiness and well being for all, a society should be able to self stabilize and thrive. It also becomes clear that stories that have no relevance to reality or that have been shaped by people with some bad experience or maybe even an emotional mental condition will undermine happiness and wellbeing. In short, lying is a problem. You can say any unreal impression left on people creates problems. Entertainment is in that regard a problem, especially if it suggest a story that is mentally unsound.

Strangely if we look at modern society it is full of fake and untrue stories. It is full of series where people are killed and psychopats are acting like there’s nothing wrong. We learn history but the goal we are mostly taught is that the ‘economy must grow’. The narrative we hear from our leaders is often flawed or empty. The media is constantly distorting reality in often a divisive way. The peope writing it seem to have other stories they want us to rely upon to frame our experiences. The level of abstraction is high and most news does not affect us personally. At the same time if people make mistakes that do affect people we care about, we are often seemingly deliberately frustrated to teach us not to care. Our society looks nothing like the happy healthy society described above.

Generally speaking one can begin to weave the fabric of stories we need. Stories are not fantasy, they are not whatever you want. I mean the stories of lives that play a part in a thriving society. To enable people to tell the stories they need experiences or people that can educate them. There also needs to be an overaching story of where society is heading. What will the future hold and how do we best prepare.

Today’s (online) media landscape is like a cacophony of narratives, some fake, some entertainment, some true, some relevant, some irrelevant. Our attention, our sequence editor, is pulled left and right because our reasonable addition to productivity from the past has been replaced by a constant pressure to earn money in the economy. It is entirely the question whether realism and social integratedness are optimal in increasing one’s net worth. We are mostly impressed to ignore other people. Only for minor things are we supposed to depend on people that are physically close to us. We live in mental communities. Facebook used to be a great example of how you can have virtual communities solely for social interaction. So basically only to share stories. It is necessary because our economic ‘duties’ remove us from each other.

Economists pretend to try to get the most out of people’s desire to create wealth. They forget that there are people that only look at numbers, and the numbers have to get bigger. These are mainly banks, but also oil companies, big industry. Global corporations are created to milk predictable business models, as well as make it more efficient to manage from every perspective. The story of globalization is that you can be a global citizen and be at home at any Starbucks thus turning cultures into backgrounds, people’s as lower status ‘landlocked’, not you, flying around!

The state of the world itself, its flora and fauna, political stability. the growing nr. of desperate people, shows the stories economists believed where make believe, not realistic. The world has spend ancient energy for a century but has not become more stabil. So what should be the way forward?

Education can provide stories and experiences to shape the expectations and inform the future choices of people. It should be honest, unbiased, not contain opinions or unproven ideas. We need people that know facts and like that ideas are verified with experience, instead of taken on face value. If education is more practical, more relevant to the reality of those taught, it will also be absorbed better. Speaking, reading and writing skills create an individual that can cooperate better. This of course does not match any individuals talent, so rather than try to define higher and lower education just specialize based on talent. Of course AI will start helping with education more and more. It should not make it redundant.

If a person has shown talent in a certain direction its important not to over educate (nobody stops anyone from doing it in their free time) but find a place for the person to work. It is banks that constantly point out who is poor and who is rich and that make lives of poor people suck (for instance through depressing architecture). This should be avoided, make all environments beautifull, healty, clean. People will love to work on that.

To be continued..