The Problem

Posted on August 12, 2020


Worst problems in the world: (TODO :: Urgent vs Important framework analysis)

  • Pollution :: Caused by perverse incentives
  • Prejudice :: Caused by ignorance
  • Inequality :: Caused by violence

To clarify, here I mean “inequality of opportunity” if we could decide on what is “fair” then I’m essentially saying “unfairness” is a problem, pollution is not only physical but also refers to signal-to-noise ratios (i.e. also information pollution such as “fake news”). Prejudice is false discrimination, i.e. delusional decision making.

It’s easy to see that a lot of prejudice is caused by pollution, I’d also argue that a lot of inequality is caused by pollution.

In fact I’d argue that pollution is the root problem to a large extent.

The Model


I will assume we live in a world where there is causality, that is to say, for any given behavior of any-thing there will be a reason or cause for that behavior.

Normally I model this with any-thing having incoming information that it senses and outgoing information that it “behaves” (i.e. that other things may sense) and inside the thing there is some heuristic for performing the conversion, this heuristic is not a behavior since it cannot be seen by others. I normally model this heuristic with “trust”, so the information you trust is more likely to affect your behavior than the information you don’t trust.

If there is a body of knowledge (the word knowledge is defined as “perceived true information” - only the information you have ultimate trust in can be regarded as “true”) that stays relatively stable and is used to evaluate incoming information to see how much trust to assign to it then I’ve usually referred to this “knowledge” as “religion” - much to others’ annoyance.

The resulting graph made up of all the things in the world is what I call “the topology of trust” and the information that moves around in the graph is “the flow of information”. By analyzing the amount of trust that a node has in the information coming in along an edge it becomes possible to talk about a “topography of trust” and by looking at how the flow of information restructures the graph we can talk about “computation of trust”.

The internet is an attempt at manifesting this structure, it is an “information technology” (technology is defined as “improving by using knowledge”).


There are relatively undisputed behaviors like the “fight-or-flight”-reflex that seem to indicate that we believe in the need for our own survival quite strongly. This has been further refined with models such as the Maslow hierarchy of needs and other attempts at understanding human incentive calculations.

I largely sidestep the difficulty of making a concrete model by using this topology of trust as a base to build from. Individuals will have their behaviors influenced by sources of information that they trust, the principle of how “computation of trust” is performed is much harder to predict since it is a second order effect but Maslow and “fight-or-flight” is largely sufficient for the analysis I will be performing in this document.


When we co-ordinate a group of individuals it, in some cases, becomes possible to see the group as an individual.

Order vs Liberty

The Frontiers

They can be summarized as follows:

  • Developing World :: Does not get to participate in the decision making of our planet. These people are mostly concerned with acquiring food and shelter.
  • Complacent World :: Does not wish to participate in the decision making of our planet. These people are mostly concerned with pleasure and avoiding responsibility.
  • Ambitious World :: Does not wish to be responsible for the decision making of our planet. These people are mostly concerned with wealth and fame.
  • Political World :: Responsible for the decision making of our planet. Mostly concerned with influence and power.

Now we can look at them more in depth, what do the problems look like in these worlds and how are they organized?

Developing World

This is the most honestly portrayed or simplest to analyze world. Here pollution is just actual pollution, prejudice is not hidden or danced around but rather displayed proudly and inequality is easily observed since people are kept down with easily observed physical violence or the threat of violence.

Here whatever resources or wealth are available will be ruthlessly extracted to fuel the complacency of those who are born rich. In order to keep this status-quo the politics will be held in perpetual disarray, this is done by giving the ambitious a chance to become complacent so long as they do their part in enabling the resource extraction. Any dissidents are swiftly dealt with and any outside efforts at change are kept ineffective by making sure they are completely dependent on continuous delivery of outside resources, thereby also weakening any opposition in other worlds.

Complacent World

This world can be summed up as identity politics, keep everyone occupied with high-complexity but low-efficacy issues, demoralize any attempts for systemic change and make sure there is plenty of stimulation to undermine discipline.

The pollution is false information or false ordering of information (i.e. giving certain topics higher precedence than truly deserved) and of course stimulation (sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.). Prejudice is based in choice of language-games, people will be unable to work with those who experience a different symptom of the same issue. Inequality depends on level of conformity (intra-group) and which groups one conforms to (inter-group).

The hierarchy of groups mostly decides how complacent you can be. Some people are in the developing world although they believe themselves to be in the complacent world.

This group dominates media so I won’t be spending many words on it. I will receive too much spam if I try to delve into these topics and I believe them to be a Gordian knot.

Ambitious World

These people want to rule the complacent world, they are willing to abstain from many distractions in order to obtain higher status. However they are also wary of the quagmire that is politics and would rather solve concrete problems. Whichever problem they decide to work on, their success will depend on them being able to convince everyone else that the problem is important (or that the solution is adequate in the case when they pick a problem that most agree is important) and therefore they base their prejudice on how informed/interested people are about/in the problem they choose (and this cuts both ways since ambitious people identify heavily with their problem).

Pollution on this level is systemic rather than value level, that is to say, it’s not the pieces of information that are the problem but rather the system that generates them. Ambitious people will generally be able to sort through information and discriminate but doing so will teach them to adapt to the underlying system, which is broken, much of their work revolves around defending the system once they learn how it works.

The system is layered in this way; someone ambitious learns the structure of how information is generated at a certain level, they find a way to provide those downstream with sufficient information to continue what they are doing and this allows them to keep any excess information from the upstream for themselves.

Ambitious people are ambitious in reference to the system. They need the structure or values of society so that they can define themselves and gauge whether they have succeeded in their efforts.

Political World

This metaphorical world rules the actual (human) world, although they cannot tell the consequences of their every action, they are still the sources of information that the others layer around and use as reference for their behavior. The layers can distort the information flow and sometimes usurpers manage to take over certain source-positions due to miscalculations from the source in how the information can be contextualized.

Pollution is the misalignment of incentives for a source - when staying in control versus using the control for the greater good - if these are not achievable with the same actions. Such misalignment is normal, one way around it would be for there to be a culture where stepping down is preferable to misusing the power, however, with just one exception such a system would fall apart (once the traitor obtains power). The fear that others cannot be trusted to take control could for example cause a good source to turn traitorous.

When a source chooses to broadcast in such a way as to stay in control at the cost of the commons then it will pollute everything downstream with; wrong incentives, lies and filth (respectively for each world).

If there was a world that would allow these two things to stay in alignment then such a world would be called utopia.

Prejudice is caused by fear of usurpers. Inequality is caused by usurpers as they transition into the role of source and reward supporters and punish adversaries.

It’s important to recognize that the political world is present everywhere where people need to make decisions or behave while witnessed. The parable of the priest and the king is a variation of this theme; the king rules the people but needs some assurance that his actions are right, assurance that he receives from the priest who acts as the representative of the divine. Point being that we layer society around the delusions of those who are bold enough to proclaim knowledge from void.

The political world is most simply thought of as the progenitor of the system, however, in reality it is hard to point at the actual source.

Towards a Solution

It should be clear from my choice to use the word ‘utopia’ that the ideal solution is probably unobtainable. However that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Now we can get concrete.

Developing World

The problem here is infrastructure. People need a systematic way of governing themselves and converting the chaos of today into the complacency of tomorrow. The way I personally would go about this is the following (this will be a vastly oversimplified view fyi):

Go somewhere where:

  • People are poor / desperate
  • The source of water is rain
  • The source of internet is 4g
  • The source of electricity is sun

Then build a house with a large roof and rainwater catchment system. The roof should (be made of / have) solarpanels. The house should have large batteries (like a crane with regenerative breaking and heavy barrels to stack or just normal batteries - point is; whatever works) and a large water tank (with water filters). It can also have some computers (servers) and a 4g tower.

Of course it doesn’t need to happen all at once, part of this would be to investigate the dependency graphs and how best to bootstrap such a house. However let’s just assume the whole thing so that I can illustrate the purpose this house serves.

The house is a school. It teaches the local children how to provide infrastructure like water, electricity, internet and money.

The house is a bank. It stores electricity, water and data for villagers. Keeping track of inputs and outputs allows for minting a currency via debts and loans (backed by infrastructure credits).

The house is a government. It is a central point for managing the resources of the village / participants in this infrastructure providing organization.

The house is not unique. It documents itself so that people elsewhere can attempt to build their own. Neighboring people can also build one maybe even with the support of the houses that already exist and the people who run them / were educated in such a place.

This would be a first step in converting the village into a place that has to deal with envy (i.e. the prejudice and violence of those who do not wish for them to succeed).

To be honest, a lot of these efforts would fail due to the owner of the local violence being threatened. However by streamlining the process of raising these houses and using the proposed solutions in the other categories to draw on the strength of the network it would be possible to keep many local despots at bay, the most important step would be to win over the faith and trust of the local people both in the idea and in the form of governance that would be necessary to scale the network of houses.

If you have for example two such houses and one of them has a drought and the other a flood then water will not have the same worth in both places. This means that each house has a currency unique to itself and calculating exchange rates would get progressively more difficult.

Thankfully this is a problem that would be necessary to solve no matter what as we will see.

Complacent World

The bedrock of the information flow in society is identity. When asked “who said what?” the “who” is often more important than the “what” (at least initially). The complacent world suffers from an identity crisis in more ways than one and the way to bootstrap