Provoking explicit language

Interesting paradox stated in the clip below (@round 7 min 30 ) by Steven Pinker (Harvard):

What is the psychological state of an overture we feel to be ‘out there’ or ‘on the record’ that makes it feel so much more akward than a veiled overture that is conveyed indirectly?

The key to this paradox is stated as mutual knowledge (as opposed to individual knowledge), where explicit language is an excellent way of creating mutual knowledge. Science builds on such explicit language. But why is it then that humans are so skilled in NOT being explicit in language (veiling), as stated earlier in Steven Pinker’s presentation?

Language has to do two things:
1) convey some content (like a bribe, command, proposition)
2) negotiate a relationship type by a) a literal form (to signal the safest relationship to the listener) and b) counting on the listener to read between the lines to entertain a proposition that might be incompatible with that relationship

This helps the imperative get through without the presumption of dominance.

Relationship types are defined after Alan Fiske. These types are in the clip defined as the set of Dominance, Communality and Reciprocity. However, literature (explained here and originating from Fiske) defines four types:

  • Communal Sharing
  • Authority Ranking
  • Equality Matching
  • Market Pricing

Pinkers explanation is that overt language creates a situation where you cannot take something back and therefore poses ‘something out there’, stressing the former safety of the relation. He explains the high pay off of a bribe refering to ‘the identification problem’ (Thomas Schelling, more here explaining sorting and peer effects)  in his book presentation of 2007  (slides of presentation here) @ 44 min 32:

dishonest
officer
honest
officer
veiled bribe go free traffic ticket
bribe go free arrest for bribary
no bribe traffic ticket traffic ticket

Similar, a dialogue by veiling respresentatives during alliance development, whether this is about the EU-bankin problem in 2012 or about alliances between universities, does create a higher change of successful outcomes. At the same time this lack of explicit language can also explain apparent trade offs. Such trade offs are noticable through lack of transparancy, miscommunication, misunderstanding, questionable loyalty and intentions.
Such trade off in developement is explained by Bateson and Gluckman (Plasticity, Robustness, Development and Evolution, 2011), stating that Plasticity and Robustess are principles of development that need each other. These principles are not opposites at all.

My hypothesis is that visualization helps ‘putting it out there’, while opening a meaningful dialogue. This means visualization should have an open, indefinite, playful character: similar to playing a mutual game looking for a answer of mutual interest, for example while allowing using closed / unidentified pawns (indivdual knowledge) of the other party on a shared canvas.

http://p2pfoundation.net/Relational_Model_Typology_-_Fiske
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Eusociality

It sounds reasonable @ this Long Now Talk by Edward O. Wilson:

Individual selection of genetic traits occurs when individuals compete with members of the same group on the basis of these traits.

Group selection of genetic traits occurs when groups compete with other groups on the basis of interactions of social individuals within these groups.

Looking at larger cooperations and alliances, both types of selection occur at once.

Overall, individual selection engenders selfish behavior (sin),
and group selection engenders cooperative behavior (virtue).

 

How to explain the fact that organisations and teams and governments (formed through both group selection and individual selection) can give rise to competitive behavior as well? For instance, starting a war together with a set of warlords, does both give rise to cooperative behavior and -at the same time- to competitive behavior. The same is through when starting a coalition with a set of universities.
Individual selection and group selection have different origins and cause different behavior. Let us not forget they do occur at the same time, and might influence each other as well.

As Steward Brand summarizes the second half:

Wilson’s alternative (to the mathematical prove against the influence of kin selection) he calls “multi-level selection,” where individual selection and group selection proceed together (with kin selection a continuing bit player). In our eusocial species, that mix of traits makes us “permanently unstable, permanently conflicted” between selfish impulses and cooperative impulses. We negotiate these conflicts endlessly within ourselves and with each other. Wilson sees inherent adaptive value in that constant negotiation. Our vibrant cultural life may be driven in part by it.

source: http://longnow.org/seminars/02012/apr/20/social-conquest-earth/ (at 34 min 50)

And here is some critique regarding Wilson’s multi-level selection.

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Behavioral Timemachine

Interesting quote here, by Daniel Goldstein in his TED-talk (nov 2011), about the visual feedback of his behavioral time machine:

It’s not telling you which way to put the slider, it’s just reminding you that you are connected to and legally tied to this future self.

He uses a visual reminder to balance out an internal conflict of loyalty. In this case a conflict between a present and a future self.

behavioral_timeline

Why not take this principle of a visual reminder into a context of inter-organisatonal cooperation? Imagine:

  1. using a trackrecord of emotions in an complex decision making arena, or
  2. a way to more easily discuss different scenarios, or
  3. a way to more easily discuss possible strategies of an alliance adapting to a dynamic context, or
  4. the repetative use of a recognizable visual grid for explaining – or better for reminding – and sharing the conflicts of loyalties at stake.

It is all about visualizing trade offs, as a reminder to some elements in ‘the equation of decision making’ that are easily forgotten, whether these elements accidentally repressed or not.

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