Thursday, May 28, 2015

Political Agent Ecosystem

Like all creatures, I can error toward my extremes. One of my extremes is following the news. I am just one of those creatures that enjoys hearing debate and different opinions. Government, in concept, is meant to be the realm of mediating disputes. As a media consumer, sure I develop opinions, but seeing everything in terms of "yes or no" "right or wrong", "innocent or guilty" can only take someone so far in understanding situations.

Let's talk history. Historians sometimes (or always) look back at the past and days of old, historical understanding was relayed heros and villains. The Great-Man who shaped with your national history and the Great-Men who shaped your enemies, or other groups histories. The more I read about history, the more the concept of agency comes up. Now I don't know watch a lot of television, because I'm boring, but if you are familiar with television, you can understand the concept of agency in shows like Games of Thrones or The Wire or something like that. The story is less reliant on protagonists and villains in conflicts and resolutions, and more about see different groups with varying relationships and how those relationships change.

As a media consumer, I think it's helpful to have this understanding of agency. If there is one book I would recommend that really puts the idea of agency into perspective, it's Getting to Yes. As a media consumer and a voter, I want to try to understand the ecosystem of government more than place value judgements. The above chart is meant to symbolize the five stances one can taking when having to negotiate. I think it is important for media consumers to understand this concept, to understand the process and the dynamics if one wishes to imagine optimal solutions. I know it's just Animal Farm all over again, but I am not an economist, I want to make cents.

Explaining the chart - First of all, the point is not to pick a spirit animal and just act like that. The animals are simply metaphors and if inclined, you could make your own chart with your own animal metaphors that is much better than the above one. The point is to know thy self within the context of other people who have different interests than your own and how one can seriously consider trade offs.

The dark horizontal line at the bottom represents an agents self interest when it comes to making an agreement. At the bottom left of the chart (by avoidance and the donkey) the agreement between you (the agent) and your negotiated counter part has an out come with with a low value. The Donkey is good at saying no and the donkey is stubborn in my metaphor, the donkey can pass up a good deal because they had their mind made up before anything was even said. But the donkey is also prudent, cautious and know when to quit. The ostrich is an extreme donkey.

Running horizontally from Donkey we can pass by the lone wolf to the fox. The cunning fox loves to play the game. Foxes loves reading Machiavelli and the Art of War. The fox always thinks, what am I getting out of it. The fox understands the importance of knowing your (interests, rights and powers) and tries to ensure that they know much more than anyone else. There is no need fox bash, foxes are a part of the ecosystem too. What may be much harder to accept than the fox is the crab and the octopus.

Crabs are complainers who have no real plan for making deals, they only see in two dimensions and like everyone to be just as miserable as them. Octopus are conspiracy theories. New Books in History, recently did an interview with an author that discusses the history of conspiracy theories in America. Conspiracy theories are a very difficult topic and I thought the interview was helpful in understanding how an individual might think about it.

The vertical bold line on the left represents how much the needs of the agents counter part in the negotiation. The sheep is the ultimate accommodator. In a political sense, of course there are plenty of sheep parables one can draw on on how sheep are gullible victims of foxes and other predators. But let's not forget they're still part of the ecosystem. Sheep cultivate patience and trust as fragile as they may be. They need sheep dogs around.

The beaver is the compromiser. I had trouble picking out an animal for compromise, but we'll say that beavers are builders but they can see over the horizon very well. Democratic government requires that its agents know how to make agreements and compromises.

I originally put the owl at the collaborating agent in our ecosystem, but they are birds of pray, I suppose they error more competitively but also look far into the horizon.

I decided to have a tree of knowledge be the unobtainable win-win deal one would hope people are reaching for. The tree to me has more to do with knowledge than interest. Robert Wright's book Non Zero take a look at the history of non-zero sum gains. Collaborate is the best, but collaboration also takes a lot of work an investment. Collaboration requires mutual respect, intelligence to make the best strategic decisions and a shit load of struggle to make it grow.

Well, that is my political rant, an illustrative inquiry into understanding relationships on a high-stakes level.

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