Analysis of Subproblem C - How to Avoid Excessive Solution Model Drift

If you reached this page before reading the Summary of Analysis, read it first. This will give you a bigger picture.


The most important subproblem to solve on a long term basis is this one, because excessive solution model drift has allowed the sustainability problem to go unsolved for so long the problem has become a global crisis capable of killing most or all of Homo sapiens.

A model is a simplified representation of something. A solution model is a description of a problem and its solution. It's a model of what's causing the problem and how the solution is supposed to work by resolving the causes. Solution model drift occurs when a solution model fails to evolve as needed to keep a problem solved. If excessive drift occurs, a problem goes from solved to unsolved.

The solution model of interest is the one people have created to run society: government. When modern democracy was invented in the late 16th century, it worked fine at first. All of society's big problems were solved. Even the worst problems of all, wars and depressions, were each solved as they arose. The human system was able to bounce back to health.

Ecological Footprint graphBut the human system has been unable to solve the environmental sustainability problem. There is no sign the problem will be proactively solved on a global basis. The is some small progress here and there, but the overall trend of the Ecological Footprint shows the world is heading for catastrophic collapse due to massive overshoot. After that the world will attempt to reactively solve the problem.

But by then it will be too late because various ecological tipping points will have been passed, like die off of photo plankton in the ocean (the source of 60% of the the world's oxygen), the buildup of huge quantities of atmospheric CO2 and the resultant global warming (which would take thousands of years to self-correct), and widespread desertification. Ever try to turn a desert into farmland when you have no irrigation water (due to depletion of ancient aquifers, melting of mountain glaciers, and overuse of rivers) and temperatures ten degrees Fahrenheit above normal?

What exactly went wrong and why? If we knew that we could begin to correct the problem.

Using the powerful tool of root cause analysis, we have an answer. One reason the world has been unable to solve the sustainability problem is because when the problem first appeared, it was not solved. Instead, due to excessive solution model drift, the human system couldn't and thus didn't solve the problem while it was still small and much easier to solve. That caused the problem to grow into its present crisis stage, where it cannot be solved with the knee jerk short term reactive solution strategies that solved past mega problems like World Wars, the Cold War, and the Great Depression.

It's a grim situation.

There may, however, be some hope. Let's take a look at the analysis results.

Substep A - Find the immediate cause of the problem symptoms in terms of the system's dominant feedback loops

Subprobem AThere is no such thing as a simple analysis or a simple solution to a difficult complex problem. The analysis for this subproblem gets subtle and a little complex right away. Please bear with us as we try to explain the analysis in simple terms.

Subproblem symptoms for this subproblem are always the same. Failure to correct failing solutions when the first start failing causes the solutions to start drifting. If the drift becomes too large, the solution model can no longer solve the problem. That's what has happened for the sustainability problem.

The analysis model for this subproblem is the same as for subproblems A and B. It's the Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace, with the Alignment Growth loop added.

The System Improvement Process tells us that the next step in our analysis is to find the immediate cause of subproblem symptoms, in terms of the system's dominant feedback loops. To figure that out we go back to the previous subproblem.

In subproblem B, social problem coupling, we found that the top two dominant life forms in the human system are locked in mortal combat. Each is fighting to control the biosphere. Currently Corporatis profitis is winning and Homo sapiens is losing. This leads to the human system following the goal of Corporatis profitis, maximization of short term profits. That short term bias prevents the long term problem of sustainability from being solved.

Why has Corporatis profitis gained such a large lead in dominance over Homo sapiens? That's our first WHY question as we begin to dig down the causal chain toward root causes.

After much head scratching and long study of the system, it appears the reason for such large and quick corporate dominance can be found in the evolutionary algorithm. This has three steps: replication, mutation, and survivial of the fittest. How genetic life forms, like people, follow this algorithm is well known. People replicate by sex, gestation, and birth. During the process of DNA splitting and recombining during replication, mutation occurs. Some genes mutate randomly. This causes unpredictable outcomes and the random variation we see in offspring versus their parents. As children grow up, survival of the fittest occurs. Not all reach reproduction age and reproduce. Those that do start another cycle of the evolutionary algorithm.

Random evolution modelA simulation model showing how this works is shown. A key insight is this involves random evolution. Genes mutate during replication randomly. This causes the Random Adaptation loop to appear. This reinforcing loop cause the Competitive Advantage Rules for that species to grow. They grow until the rules decay rate is faster than the discovery of new rules rate. The graph shows how the stock of rules grows until it levels off at about 80 rules, which is 80% of evolutionary perfection.

Note how easy the life form's problems were to solve at first. Each mutation is a trial, an experiment. The trial success percent is 50% at first. It later drops to about 3%. This represents how when a difficult problem is approached, the easy parts are solved first. Your solutions work perhaps 50% of the time on the low hanging fruit. But in the later more difficult problems, the higher fruit in the tree of problems, the solution success rate is much lower.

People are a genetic life form. Opposing them for dominance of the biosphere is the corporate life form. Corporations are a memetic life form. A meme is a mental belief or behavior learned from others. Another definition is a "unit of cultural information." Memetic means of or dealing with memes, just as genetic means of or dealing with genes. Corporations replicate by a new corporation being chartered. Corporation mutate when they are chartered and any time they want to thereafter, merely by changing the rules they live by. Corporations compete in a continual running battle for survival of the fittest in millions of economic niches.

Evolutionary algorithm modelNow suppose we add the Intelligent Adaptation loop to the model. This gives us the complete evolutionary algorithm for both genetic and memetic life forms. Genetic life forms can only randomly adapt during replication. Memetic life forms can do that and more. They can intelligently adapt anytime they want to, merely by changing their rule set. That's expressed in learned rules, not the genetic rules of DNA.

The end result, as the graph illustrates, is that genetic life forms get trounced by memetic life forms whenever the two are competing for the same niche.

Think about it. The history of large for-profit corporations is the history of how that memetic life form intelligently adapted so as to maximize control of its niche. It got legislatures around the world to give corporations more and more powers: limited liability, unlimited lifespan, and the power to issue stock. Can people do any of that? No. Over time, exploitation of the Intelligent Adaption loop gave the world the New Dominant Life Form, as shown in this table:

Summary of Analysis ResultsThis takes us to the next of the five substeps of analysis.

Substep B - Find the intermediate causes, low leverage points, and symptomatic solutions

Subprobem AMost problem solvers don't see the sustainability problem the way we do because they are classic activists. They don't analyze first and only then develop solutions. They intuitively develop solutions first and then if they fail, they try to somehow make the solutions better or just turn up the volume on pleas to get them accepted. That of course fails on difficult problems.

Now we can see why it fails. Classic activists cannot see what we see on this page. They can't see the table above. They can't see how the Modern Corporation has accumulated an astronomical advantage over puny Homo sapiens. Nor can they see the two simulation models discussed above.

Instead, they see things simplistically. They see the intermediate cause of some vague part of the sustainability problem as laws giving corporations advantages over people. So what do they do? Since they are classic activists and have no concept of root causes analysis or proper problem decomposition, they push on the low leverage point of trying to directly reverse laws that favor corporations. They use symptomatic solutions like media use, campaigns, and lobbying to get old laws repealed.

For example, classic activists in the US are campaigning and lobbying to get Citizens United v. FEC repealed. In January 2010 that US Supreme Court decision gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money for political broadcasts in candidate elections. Since this is where most money is spent in US elections, the decision means corporations can spend all they want to elect who they want. This is not exactly compatible with a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, so classic activists are desperately trying to get corporate money out of politics. The leading efforts in the US, as of December 2011, are the Occupy Wall Street and Move to Amend campaigns. The most popular solution is to amend the US Constitution with an amendment that revokes corporate personhood and the ability of corporation to influence elections.

It won't work.

The reason is it pushes on a low leverage point. Laws giving corporations advantages over people is not the root cause. Even if by some miracle the amendment is passed (only 27 out of over 11,000 proposed amendments have been adopted in 222 years and passage required approval by 3/4 of the states), it will make little difference. Corporations will go right on controlling political systems due to the advantages listed in the table above, plus their immense wealth, plus working through their owners, employees, media proxies, false think tanks, etc, plus the fact they have the wrong goal of short term profit maximization, as analyzed in subproblem B.

Historic proof revoking corporate personhood won't work exists. Here's how dominant corporations were before they gained personhood in the 1886 case of Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific, where "the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause guarantees constitutional protections to corporations in addition to natural persons."

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." ~ U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, November 21, 1864

Repealing corporate personhood would not change what Lincoln saw and foresaw, because the corporate life form doesn't need personhood to "prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." All it needs is money and the profit motive.

Here's another example:

"The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations." ~ President Rutherford Hayes, the eventual winner of the tainted 1876 US presidential election, which was settled by corporate dominated secret negotiations. Hayes wrote these words later in 1888.

Repealing corporate personhood will not solve the corporate dominance problem. To do that one must strike at the root.

Substep C - Find the root causes of the intermediate causes

Subproblem AThe root cause of corporate dominance if multi-faceted. There are three main root causes, one each for subproblems A, B, and C. Subproblem A found the root cause of the corporate life form's successful change resistance to be high political deception effectiveness. Mass deception is working like a charm. Subproblem B found the root cause of social improper coupling to be mutually exclusive goals between the top to life forms in the human system, Corporate profitis and Homo sapiens. The 8 million pound gorilla has the wrong goal of short term profit maximization.

In subproblem C, substep A found that the Intelligent Adaptation loop for Corporatis profitis is the immediate cause dominant loop. Substep B found the intermediate cause of this is laws giving corporations advantages over people. What is the root cause of that intermediate cause?

The answer is not at all obvious. The answer must be a systemic one, because only systemic root causes can resolve systemic problems. Looking at the question from a systemic point of view and from the point of view of a business manager, what do we see?

Each decision to give corporations what they want to increase their competitive advantage over humans is obviously an error. That's a symptom of solution model drift. Repeated errors of any kind are most productively viewed as defects due to immaturity in the process used. In governments this is the political decision making process. If it’s producing defects in the form of bad decisions that lead to outcomes like unsustainability, then quality of political decisions must be dangerously low.

Therefore low quality of political decision making is the main root cause of excessive model drift.

Critical thinkers may object that how governments work is so convoluted, involves so many millions of people, and is subject to so much special interest, consensus, and human fallibility pressures that of course the process of political decision making is immature. We’re lucky it work’s as well as it does. It really can’t be improved on all that much. Nations have been trying to do that ever since the fall of Rome.

This is all true except for the claim it can’t be improved. Just because we’ve never done something doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Just because maturity of the government decision making process has long been low on difficult problems doesn’t mean it can’t be radically improved. If it realistically can, then this is a resolvable root cause. We hypothesise maturity of political decision making can be radically improved, as demonstrated in the sample solution element for subproblem C.

To summarize, the root cause of excessive solution model drift is low quality of political decisions. Various steps in the decision making process are not working properly, resulting in inability to proactively solve many difficult problems. That's why the Intelligent Adaptation loop is dominant in the model above. That loop is being beautifully exploited by the corporate life form. If governmental decisions on how to solve problems were high quality, decision makers would see that loop is being abused and would have long ago taken action. The corporate dominance problem would have been nipped in the bud while it was still small enough to solve easily. It's not an easy loop to see. That's why extremely high quality political decisions are needed.

Substep D - Find the feedback loops that should be dominant to resolve the root causes

The root cause of excessive model drift is low quality of political decisions. It follows that for politicians to automatically make high quality decisions the system needs feedback loops causing quality of political decisions to go from low to high. The current such loop is the Voter Feedback loop. However this is so weak it’s easily dominated by other loops in the system, such as The Race to the Bottom among Politicians and Intelligent Adaptation for the New Dominant Life Form.

The System Improvement Process tells us there is a missing feedback loop. What is it? Studying the system, we see that voters are decision makers. The key loop in the democratic model of government is the Voter Feedback loop. But voters are not the only key decision makers. So are the politicians voters elect. If democracy has a formal Politician Feedback loop, that would make as much difference as when the formal Voter Feedback loop was first added.

We’ve found the loop that needs to go dominant to resolve the root cause. It’s the Politician Feedback loop.

Substep E - Find the high leverage points for making the loops in substep D go dominant

Subproblem APoliticians make the world’s most important decisions. The purpose of the Politician Feedback loop would be to optimize the quality of those decisions. All decisions are the result of the process that produced them Therefore the high leverage point to make the Politician Feedback loop go dominant is raising maturity of the political decision making process.

We can arrive at the same conclusion without considering the loop. If a root cause is clear then usually so is the high leverage point(s) for resolving it. If we borrow from the field of quality management and think in terms of processes and defects, each low quality decision is a defect. The root cause of solution model drift is low quality of political decisions. This low quality must be primarily due to low maturity of the decision making process. That’s the high leverage point. Raising maturity to a high level will resolve the root cause.

The complete analysis

For the complete analysis see the Cutting Through Complexity book. See the chapter on Subproblem C – How to Avoid Excessive Solution Model Drift.