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Surplusses and Exchange

This page is part of an (blog) article in progress?, written by Nadja Kutz. To discuss this article while it’s being written, please visit the Azimuth Forum.

This section is dedicated to main components in the discussion about surplusses and exchange in economics. The discussion serves as a guideline for the game Utopia. This section is part of an article draft at randform. For the discussion it will be necessary to recap a little bit and repeat some common knowledge in order to motivate the involved concepts (side remark: common knowledge is here of course only what the author believes is or should be common knowledge. In particular as a warning: some common knowledge may turn out to be false in scientific experiments or as facts).

surplus and perception

The GDP is thus a metric which gives some information about the state of an economy and its surplusses. Very simplified the GDP (see e.g. the expenditure method) counts e.g. the total expenditures per year. If there are more expenditures in a year than in the previous one (i.e. if there is a growth) than this means that there was a surplus. It is a fairly course grain measure and as indicated in Economic growth and limitations it doesn’t describe too well the quality of life in the corresponding economy. For that reason a number of different measures, like e.g. the HDI Index had been proposed (a good list is e.g. at the Wikipedia GDP site). Economic growth is however not only an insufficient measure for the quality of life per se but in some sense also insufficient for assessing what a surplus is. One of the main reasons for this is of course that the questions “what is the quality of life” and “what is a surplus” are to some extend a psychological and cultural question. Or by taking again the example of castle Neuschwanstein mentioned in Utopia- it is clear that if the federal state of Germany would try to sell castle Neuschwanstein then of course this would stir up quite some resistance in Bavaria. In fact building the castle was bringing the state of Bavaria on the brink of ruin and the sacrifices made at that time are still in the conscious of many bavarians. Likewise the european gothic churches were built while people had to make many sacrifices to their living standards for that purpose. I.e. the churches were regarded by certain collectives in the middle ages as something that had a very high value and not as a surplus that could be rather easily given away. Some building projects in the world were even considered to be so important that their value extended that of human lifes. (the reader may want to read also the discussion about assigning values in On the need of a global scientifc internet platform.

However the popularity of the GDP lies in the fact that these hardly quantifyable questions don’t need to be assessed, but that there is a matter-of-fact indication of some kind of surplus.

So what is this surplus about? Amongst others it’s about the use of ressources but one of the main ingrediences of economic growth is also that human productivity is growing. Hence the role of labour and productivity must play a role in the discussion of surplusses.

As indicated above the average monetary value of something may be different from values which are related to perceptional (and other, like environmental) considerations. In particular the role of what and who is rendered important plays a big role in assigning values and thus in the determination of surplusses. For that reason notions like power and importance will be further discussed in later subsections. It should be mentioned at this place that environmental considerations play e.g. a role in the socalled Progress Indicator.</a>

labour, productivity and the role of machines

In section Economic growth and labour an investigation of labour statistics displayed that economic growth is correlated with a growth of a labour market. However economic growth turned out to be way “steeper” or “faster” than the corresponding growth of the labour market. Thus the share of labour versus GDP is in decline. And if one asks where the economic wealth goes to if not into labour then the old suspect that machines are replacing human work seems to have a statistical evidence. There may however be of course also other sectors to which wealth may go.

Apriori the replacement of human work with machine work is in a lot of cases a good thing. A lot of hard, unhealthy, impossible and dangerous work can by made by machines and this certainly usually serves mankind. However as long as machines are not intelligent autonomous units like humans there will still be work, which cannot be replaced by machines. Morever at one point the ressources needed for a machine which does some work may exceed the basic ressources needed for a human.

This is an important point. Let’s investigate this further.

In order to work properly a human needs certain working and life conditions. If those conditions are not met a human will rather perform below its capabilities, moreover the maximal workforce will hold for a shorter time. The human will be worn out faster. As long as the world population is growing one can rather easily replace humans who do not work efficiently enough. Likewise as long as there are enough ressources the maintanance of machines will be eventually less profitable than their replacement. The general balance of the costs for humans versus the costs for machines do play a role in our societies. The involved costs are connected with the task of a human or machine. In particular the simpler and the more repetitive the working task, the easier it is to built a machine for the task, which is cheaper than a human. A machine may eventually be even cheaper in terms of environmental costs. So for task which could be equally be done by a machine or human, the costs of work play a role in the competition of machines versus humans. In the social economies in Europe the costs for the work of a human are relatively high in comparision to other parts of the world. One reason for this is that the heavy introduction of machines and the fierce battle of labour costs vs machine costs started already in the 19th century with the onset of industrialization. Here humans fought not only for more decent living conditions but also fought for a compensation of costs, which arise when a human is not working, like in case of education, unemployment, sickness and old age. (Apart from industrialization there were of course also other factors like cultural and historical which gave way to this movement and to similar movements in other parts of the world). The more there was the need for work, which couldn’t be easily done by machines (like e.g. for the control and development of machines), the more pressure could be exerted in asking for a recompensation. In the turn this made the creation of more machines attractive.

Let’s look a bit more on the tasks or benefits of work. Workforce goes to a great extend into creating and maintaining humans and machines and their immediate environments, like buildings, lifestock etc. It is only rather recent that a growing part of workforce goes into, what could be subsumed under the word exchange. That is into higher mobility, tourism, enforced communication, bigger financial streams etc. Throughout the history of mankind there was always some degree of exchange like in particular the exchange of ressources, which was of course mostly due to geological, climatical conditions. As soon as humans settled in regions which were not fully adapted to their living conditions they needed to increase exchanges. Living in perfect conditions, i.e. at a place, where food can be found in abundance, where there are no dangers and the climate is fine, a human can survive almost without exchange, even humans as a group would need apriori very few exchanges for surviving. However living in very cold weather, between wild animals makes e.g. the storage of food, eventual mutual food exchange, sharing of tasks, defense etc. necessary.

One could now infer that the exchange which is necessary for survival is connected with work which should be accounted for the creation and maintainance of humans. Likewise the knowledge for building more intelligent machines has to be exchanged and should thus be accounted for creation and maintenance of machines and humans etc. So why consider the term exchange separately from creation and maintenance?

Because it is very important to keep track of whats happening here.


In order to explain why the seperate discussion about “exchange” makes sense, lets fix some terms and simplify a bit. Lets call a carrier of something a medium. Let’s call something that simply stores not just “storage thing” but also a machine (if you want call it storing-machine). That is a fridge would be a machine, but also a building could be seen a machine to some extend. A book would be a machine. This simplification may be strange at the first place, but it has some advantages.

It is now rather straightforward to see that humans are rather bad media in comparision to machines. That is humans can carry only a few kilograms of materia, they are rather slow (like in comparision to a car), they cannot fly, even as the carrier of information they are rather bad, that is they forget things and their phantasies makes them sometimes rather unreliable for carrying information.

So in some sense one can say that one of the main tasks of machines nowadays is the one of being a medium for something.

In the turn it is clear that any exchange needs a medium, because exchange means to carry (or more general “mediate”) something from somewhere to somewhere else. Note that exchange is here not only over space but also over time. That is storing information can be seen as “carrying information from the past into the present”, likewise computing weather forcasts can be seen as “carrying information from the (somewhat fuzzy) future into the present”. In that sense also creation bears some components of exchange, that is e.g. a child carries the genetic information of its parents. Note also that in this sense language could be seen as a medium for information ( Short side remark: If (classical) information is seen as “the message” then with this understanding of language “the medium is the message” holds only true for lossless transmission. ) etc. Consequently it follows that the more exchange is taking place, the more media is needed and thus the more machines are needed.

The above simplification makes visible that the primary role of “work”, which was the creation and maintenance of humans (i.e. “survival of humans”) has shifted.

It displays that for the discussion of the role of work and surplusses one has to decide first how much emphasis has to be laid on the survival of humans and how much on exchange and in particular on what kind of exchange.

humans and survival

survival of the fittest paradigm

As a matter of fact one can state that in our nowadays societies only partial emphasis is put on the survival of humans. This can be seen at the mere fact that there are e.g. people starving in the world. Often this fact is attributed to a “survival of the fittest” paradigm, but of course it is clear that the most intelligent and from genetic disposition most bodily fit kid in a starving region like e.g. in Sudan may have no chance and starve - despite its “genetical fitness”. Likewise it is clear that there is a lot of exchange taking place, which is definitively not nessecary for the survival of the human kind. I guess it is not necessary to come up with examples, see also subsection “machines as power instruments”. One may at that place infer that the creation of machines (vs survival of humans) may be in accordance to the “survival of the fittest” paradigm in that future machines may turn out to be fitter than humans in the long run. However nobody knows wether humans will be able to construct such machines (especially not such machines which do what humans thinks they should do) and it is sofar even not clear wether manhood may survive long enough to be able to develop such super machines. It may actually rather be the case that humans will keep trying to enhance their capabilities by machinistic add-ons. So this “survival of the fittest human” paradigm seems to be not an overly useful guideline for current world politics. An evolutionary process which describes the evolution of natural organisms (like humans) and machines as “artificial organisms” as one process shall be called “(machine) extended evolution”. Let’s investigate this a bit further.

brain childs versus real childs

In Traceability of intellectual properties and evolution the term “brain child” is taken literally in an evolutionary sense. However the evolution of “brain childs” and human “real childs” is not seperate but interconnected. As an example one can see that a machinistic add-on, like a phone has originally been a “brain child”. The concrete realization of that brain child, i.e. the the possibly involved “materialization” and its energy use has of course also to be considered, this is especially important when discussing the use of ressources. The concrete realization of a brain child into a “machine” can be compared to the “maturing” process of natural organisms, i.e. a machine is “a brain child that had grown into an adult.” So a machinistic add-on for a human is in this sense a new hybrid “organism,” namely -for the case of the above example- a “human with phone.” Note that this new organism is of course way more similar to a human, than a (nowadays) roboter. In particular the phone is a somewhat “non-autonomous” machine, that is it is used for enhancing human capabilities and doesn’t have a “life” of its own. For simplicity an executable software shall similarily be regarded as a non-autonomous “machine.” (side remark: Greatly simplifying, like by omitting the issue of temperature (1) or velocity of light an information gain (software) “is” energy and thus “is” mass). That is the software has no “life of its own” without a computer. Hence a computer running software is rather a machine-machine hybrid than a machine, however this hybrid can of course still be called again a machine, like a skin transplanted human would still be called a human.

(1)footnote: where it is here to be questioned wether one should here not include the notion of temperature in one way or the other to accomodate for brain childs, which are not “liveable”, or boldly speaking e.g. “bullshit” from onset on, waste etc. and at which point too much informational “bullshit” may lead to an “informational heat death”. Where the notion of temperature itself seems to be related to the notion of mutation rate.

Some people prefer to call human machine hybrids “cyborgs”. The author would however prefer to use this term for humans, which couldn’t live without a machinistic add-on (or a machine which couldn’t live without a human add-on). A human with an artificial heart would then be then a cyborg, a human with a leg prothesis or an Iphone however not. If one doesn’t use the term “cyborg” for such a special kind of hybrid it would be good to have a term for it. Using “cyborg” in this more narrow sense would be closer to the original meaning of the term cybernetics (which comes from the greek to govern) and would also be closer to the intuitive (admittingly Hollywood infused) common understanding. That is a cyborg would be a “true hybrid”. Or in other words a cyborg would be someone who’s life is dependend on a more or less matured brain child. The current rather negative connotation of the word cyborg in society comes probably mostly from the fact that up to now complex brain childs didn’t seem mature enough for replacing major parts (in particular the brain) of the human body in a life-sustaining way.

A human machine hybrid is a rather descriptive but long umbrella term, which would then include the term cyborg. The word hybrid however comes from greek origins which are related to the word hubris. So in some sense the word “hybrid” invokes negative associations like that by materializing brain childs humans may take on some kind of “god-like” role and if they use this for self-enhancement/empowerment (more on the role of power below) then this is in some sense a “hubristic act”. Moreover the word “hybrid” is in general connected with interspecies pairing and if one would regard different social layers as different species then the negative origin of hybrid as being a kind of bastard becomes even more clear.

Maybe one could use the word “mechander” as a short form for such human machine hybrids. The word means literally “machine man” (which is already in use in english in a rather different context). The term is stemming from the greek words “mechane” and “mechos”, which are the origins of the latin word machine, and “ander” which is the common english transcription of the genitve form “andros” of the greek word for “man/human”. Cyberized, machinized or cyber man etc. would be another possibility. If cyborg should be accepted in society as a more broader term then one could e.g. use mechander for the more narrow type of hybrid with lifesustaining dependency.

Note that if we talk about machines in the sense of a “matured brain child” then automatically all types of non-traditional machines, like artificial tissues etc. are included. Up to now a lot of machinistic add-ons are traditional machines with traditional electronics, which usually consist of materials which are not always too well adapted to the human organism and also not to important aspects of ecology. This will probably (need to) change and may eventually go together with a more “biologized” development of pure machines as it can be observed in DNA computing. On the other hand this “bioligization” of course doesn’t exclude the possibility of the integration of other materials as currently integrated in amino acids. Finally there are already scientific studies related to this.

If one excepts this view of extended evolution then one immediate conclusion could be that some (especially northern) civilizations are prioritising the creation and maintenance of brain childs/machines over real childs/humans.

machines as power instrument

It is important to note that another big use for machines - apart from enhancing the means of survival and the thrive of humans - is the use as a power instrument. That is with the use of a “machine” a human can be more powerful than another. In particular weapons are “machines” which do not necessarily support the “fittest” human. In the discussion about survival of the fittest one would thus in particular rather need to compare human-machine hybrids and not the “survival of the fittest” among humans only.

Many types of exchange may raise the power of a human versus another. Here again machines are often used as a medium. So in particular pistols may be seen as a medium for the exchange of bullets. This will be further discussed in the section “power and exchange”.

power and exchange

It was asserted in the previous sections that many types of exchange may raise the power of a human and in particular its power in comparision to another human or human-machine hybrid. In fact in some sense any type of exchange alters the power of a human versus other and the question is rather how much in which direction.

The term “power” for electrical circuits was not chosen accidentally, it was most likely made with respect to the human analogon. A MMOG is a kind of network (with human add ons) and thus similar in form to (the considerably simpler) network “electrical circuit”, it makes thus sense to sometimes compare the terminology. Observe that an individuum may be regarded as a very simple network (consisting of one point) and that the combination of networks is again a network, hence combinations of machines and humans can be regarded as a network-“organism”, likewise combinations of those networks, like within socalled social networks may thus form a kind of network-“organism” in an “extended evolution.” For a science trained audience this is a rather trivial statement, however it is eventually good to repeat these mental constructions in order to illustrate the involved views.

In particular it is clear that social networks are important for assessing the question of what belongs to human power. Like the power of a human in a social network is often directly related to the question of how many friends/followers, i.e. connections a human has. In particular the more connections a human has, the more exchanges are apriori possible. Somewhat like a battery which can take in principle more loads (or recharges) if there are more connections. Depending on the direction of the exchange flows a connection can however also decrease power at a network point (in an electrical circuit the power at a network point can be defined as the sum over the power of its attached edges). The control of networks via control of connections (setting the switches, controlling the flow) is of course also an aspect which belongs to human power. The ability to accumulate things, values or “charges” (capacitance) is another aspect, which plays a role. These aspects could be poorly but at least somewhat mirrored by an electrical network.

A human may have more power than another human if amongst others it has more capabilities and/or more exchanges to apply at least some of its capabilities. This is important with regard to the add-ons and/or the immediate environment of a human. So for example weapons enhance the physical power of a human and thus its capabilities, using a weapon for exchange is usually only in war times important. A lot of devoted followers may increase physical power (however not so much as an atomic bomb) and mental power, likewise they may increase the exchange with other humans. A computer enhances the capabilities of a human and depending on what you can do with it the exchanges a.s.o.

Power is of course an important parameter for survival. That is if a human has not enough power to withstand destructive features in its environment then it will, depending on how destructive the features are die faster than in normal lifetime. In a friendly environment there are less destructive features and thus a human doesn’t need too much power to survive. As pointed out earlier in such an environment the average capabilities of a human are enough for survival. This is somewhat similar for groups of humans. Thus the more power the more there are not only higher chances for survival but for also for growth.

The limitation of resources is a more or less “destructive” feature in a human environment and thus a human may have a quest to overcome that limitations via applying its power. This may result in power struggles among humans. Power struggles may add an additional destructive component to an environment. That is if ressources are limited then e.g. the danger from the power struggles may be worse than the dangers from the limitation itself. In particular the perception of limitation, values and the need for growth plays a big role here. Likewise the perception of destructive dangers from power struggle are important. Like it is to be expected that an individual which has been heavily involved in power struggles will be faster alerted and faster “up for a fight.” That is the real danger of a power struggle is hard to assess and therefore it is easier to be “more prepared” rather than to built up counter-measures depending on danger. For the same reason it is to be expected that the more an individual is or has been involved in power struggles the more it it won’t consent to a decrease of power.

Given the additional “destructiveness” of power struggles, it may for the purpose of the survival of a group therefore be important to decrease these additional destructive components which may arise from power struggle. Among humans in smaller groups this is usually done by choosing either powerful individuals, who’s decision is more or less ruling (“emperor”,“chief”) or by setting rules and/or individuals which more represent and defend those rules (“judge”,“magician”, “elected council” etc.). These individuals need usually to have more power than a single individual in a group in order to be able to mediate power struggles, to eventually defend weak group members and in order to coordinate struggles against destructiveness which is directed against the group. They have this power in part alone by the number of “followers”. The less these individuals are involved in the power struggle inside a group the better the mediation usually works. However the more resources are “limited” the more mediation may be difficult and the more such powerful individuals may not be independent and be themselves involved in power struggles. Moreover powerful individuals are often chosen because they are already quite powerful and withstood many struggles. That may make them even more prepared for being involved in struggles.

Another possibilities to overcome at least temporarily some limitations within a group/within an environment is via altruistic behaviour. Altruistic behaviour of individual means that that individual considerably lowers its own ressources/power etc. for the benefit of others. That is for example an individual voluntarily donates more into an environment than as would be considered life sustaining without damage. This behaviour is often beneficial to groups or to the environement of that individual. Note that altruism happens also in beings, without conscious decisions. This is sometimes extra denoted as biological altruism. However the author prefers to mean biological altruism, when speaking about altruism and prefers to specify the degree of consciousness and voluntaryness if necessary.

In particular altruistic behaviour is sometimes connected to the conscious or subconsious or driven expectance that the beneficial behaviour will be rewarded, like by altruistic behaviour of others. Such an altruism which is related to an exchange of beneficial donations is usually called reciprocal altruism and there are various reciprocity mechanisms. So reciprocal altruism is related to a certain time dependence of altruistic behaviour with respect to the expected reward.

In the recent study "Intra- and intergenerational discounting in the climate game" selfish, fair and altruistic behaviour was investigated with respect to the time-delay of group rewards. The author has currently only access to the abstract and the supplementary image material. As the author understood the time delay was kept constant over 10 game rounds, which were played in groups of six persons. The average behaviour over all groups seems to be indicted in the images. One sees that there seemed to be a rather stable percentage of selfish, fair and altruistic behaviour for short term rewards over a game which run over 10 rounds. For games for which rewards were handed out with a medium time delay and a very long time delay (which was actually considered as belonging to a “next generation”) the behaviour of the altruistic share stayed rather constant but a share of the fair gamers turned into selfish gamers over the course of the rounds. This “turn-to-selfish” was faster for the long-term delay.

Altruistic behaviour might in some cases turn into aggression, in particular into autoaggression, like it is the case for altruistic suicide. In this context the limitation of ressources and the question how much someone can contribute to a society or to sustaining ones own life may be related to the rather high suicide rate for elderly persons. Here it is also important to note the grade of voluntariness, that is group pressure etc. may sometimes not be easily visble.

In the determination of what should be considered altruistic, (i.e. damaging to an individual but eventually beneficial to an environment/community) it seems thus also important to assess the grade of damage (especially with respect to time) and grade of (auto)aggression.

The feature of altruism seems to be important for understanding the major problems of capitalism -especially with respect to long term environmental questions. That is simplified speaking in a free market there exists no systemic mechanism for a company to lower profits, whereas sustainability may eventually ask for efforts which are less profitable for the entrepreneur – even on long-term perspectives. (Note in this context that cross-financing doesn’t apriori mean lowering profits on the whole). Thus lowering profits is usually only taking place if individual humans or individual human groups decide to do so (like for religious reasons), unintended like if there are ill-made business decisions (like bad market predictions) or if there are political regulations, like ursury laws. Or in short: The considerably strong altruistic component which exists in humans seems on average to be smaller for companies.

Interestingly a different treatment of small and large scale profits is sometimes reflected in ursury laws. So for example the ursury law for the state of new york has a socalled maximum "criminal" interest rate of 25% for loans up to 2.5 million dollars but no limit rate for bigger loans. (As a side remark: it seems if state bonds would be seen as loans then such a limit would have most likely let to other resolutions in the quarrels around Argentines debt restructuring).

It would be interesting to study this in more detail, especially with respect to statistical evaluations. However even without even knowing wether it is actually true that companies are on average less altruistic than humans it makes sense to think about possible causal components which could enter this suggestive fact. In particular thinking about those components may give indications which questions might be of particular interest. One component seems to be that altruistic behaviour within businesses seems to be mostly reciprocal, which seems mostly to be due to the fact that businesses can’t stay too long in the no-profit zone let alone in the loss zone. A (grown-up) human without net health losses (which would damage the human and possibly shorten life expectancy) but with no extra health profits can life an average lifetime. Note at this place that small profits, like the possibility for basic hygiene can rather dramatically increase life expectancy. Similar things hold to quite some extend also for old age care, where a human may less and less be able to retrieve essential needs like food and shelter. So immediate questions which appear here are: Is there an average lifetime for businesses which live in the low-profit zone? Does this depend on size? Are there regional and cultural differences ?

If one takes human reproduction into account then things get more complicated, alone the question wether not being able to reproduce should be accounted for as a loss is a big question. Likewise the question wether growth is necessary for a business is of a similar nature.

The above experiment within the study "Intra- and intergenerational discounting in the climate game" seems to illustrate a component which may play a major role in this alleged lower altruistic component for companies and in particular, why companies would not stay too long in the no-profit zone, even if there are no external investors, who would ask for extra profits. That is if one considers the negotiations and time spent within a company as “rounds” then it could be that if the group reward (the company seen as a group) is increasingly seen as company profit only, i.e. as income without the running costs, like wages etc. then long term phases in the low profit/no profit zone may lead to a decrease in cooperativity and thus to a damage of the companies performance.

Importance, power and exchange


It will be useful to introduce another component in the discussion about power and exchange, which is the notion of importance. Importance can be seen as a kind of relative evaluation of a human with respect to other humans. That is an individual may be important to one particular person or to a whole bunch with varying levels. A high importance doesn’t necessarily imply that that person has a high power. Like for example for the atmosphere in a community a joker or artist may be important, so that that person may be important for many people. It is however not necessarily the case that a joker has a high power. Importance is though often related to “emotional power” that is to an emotional (inter)dependence of one human to another. Likewise a powerful person has usually automatically some level of importance that is such a person needs to have been positively evaluated by its followers, it may be regarded as an important enemy by its counterparts etc. In particular importance can be positive and negative that is a lover will be rather positively important for a person, an enemy rather negatively important. Importance is related to the attention a human devotes to another, or to itself. Importance may however be also connected with purposes and things. Importance seems to be some kind of emotional need for survival. A human seems to need to be important for something.

Let’s call the environment or community which an individuum renders important: important community/environment of an indviduum. Apart from the emotional aspect importance now also reflects the willingness of an important community of an individuum to eventually support, expell or destroy that individuum - depending on wether the importance of that individuum is positive or negative with respect to the community/environement. Importance thus reflects in some sense the possibility of power via a community/environment which is again a crucial factor for survival. In particular if there is the possibility of a choice then an individuum will tend to seek out a community/environment which is considered to be important as a comunity/environment and at the same time seek out a community/environment in which it may be of some net positive importance. These two components may be in conflict though.

How important an individuum feels seems amongst other to depend on the feedback it has got from someone/something, it depends also on the individuum. Rapid changes in importance seem to give usually an extra thrill (which influences motivation) in the positive or in the negative direction, depending on wether the importance increased or decreased. Like people eventually seek rapid positive increase in importance by taking part in contests, on the other hand strong negative “thrill” may lead to strong agression, like people may be driven close to suicide if they are suddenly discharged from an important position. Here it is to note that the expected importance (to stay in a position) and the displayed importance (the person is discharged) may contribute to the level of reaction. That is if the discharged person had done something which was wrong in its own value system, which led to the discharge, then there would be probably less aggression. Likewise if people loose in a contest, then they are usually disappointed and sometimes even aggressive because one usually only enters a contest if one expects to win to some extend. Here of course the nature of the contest (how fierce, what is at stake, what are the chances to win etc.) plays a big role.

Interestingly being very important for one person may compensate for being of minor importance for a couple of people. Strong importance is usually connected with emotional power. Being strongly important for many people may for some thus be even a burden, because the emotional power involved with this importance may lead to a feeling of strong responsibility. In the humble comparision with electrical circuits, importance may eventually be related to something like voltage, electric potential and charge (depending in relation to what and on a notion of “distance”) and feedback to “photons”. These terms could thus be somewhat related to the electrical field. Exchange may be related to current in the electrical circuit analogy, however here it the notion of exchange depends also very much on what is exchanged.

Neurophysiological research points into a similar direction. For example the speed and quality of a (re-)uptake of dopamine seems to play a role in the perception of rejection (see e.g. a blogpost about ADHD and dopamine) Likewise expectations play a role in dopamine levels (see e.g. a blogpost on randform about work of Robert Sapolsky. By looking at the current neurophysiological research, it should also be mentioned that on average it seems that negative experiences may be stronger perceived and memorized than positive experiences.

It should however be pointed out that there are probably rather large indvidual, gender and cultural deviations from the average.

Similar things hold probably for the perception and transmission of aggressivity, i.e. strong emotions which include the possible destruction or impairment of things and living beings. So for example an outward directed aggressivity can be dampened by e.g. empathy, that is the ability to perceive e.g. the possible pain of an adversary may lead to a decreased exertion of aggressivity, like in a fist fight. For this dampening mechanism to take place it is however important that an individual is capable of perceiving empathy, which seems to be e.g. not to be the case for psychopaths or sometimes less the case after drug consume. Social and cultural control may likewise dampen outward directed aggressivity. That is the ability to be able to control one’s immediate emotions is in many cultures higher valued than the ability of exerting physical (or sometimes even of excerting rhetoric) power and to display one’s own negative importance for the other. A reduced outward aggressivity is however not necessarily a reduced aggressivity. Aggressivity may for example also be excerted as autoaggression and/or postponed for later excertion, as it is the case for revenge. Especially by scanning through the psychological literature, it should be remarked at this place that it seems that females seem on average tend to behave currently still more autoagressive and/or less aggressive than males. That seems of course to have to do with their role in human evolution. As a side remark it should in addition be mentioned at this place that food consume is to a not negligable extend related to the moderation and/or control of emotions and in particular of aggressivity and stress in general. On the website of Len Kravitz at the University of New Mexico one can find some literature overview by him and collaborators Maglione-Garves and Schneider and a short and easy to understand intro to the topic. Amongst others they write:

People can react to a stressor in different ways. For instance, if an individual perceives the stressor as a challenge to his/her control of a situation, norepinephrine, the “fight ” hormone is predominantly released. And, if the stress arousal increases and a possible loss of control is felt by the individual, then epinephrine, another “flight/anxiety” hormone is released.

When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, the individual becomes more distressed and feels defeated. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain. What follows is a cascade of hormonal pathways resulting in the final release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex (of the kidney).


Animal and human studies have demonstrated that cortisol injections are associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain (12).

In this context it is not to far fetched to suspect a possible connection between autoagression (as a distressor) and an apparently increased occurrence of the Cushing’s syndrome in females.

Importance is thus related to exchange via the amount and quality of feedback. So to some extend importance is provided by an environment, like by friends, collegues etc. but the quality of feedback is also related to perception. Like in the example of the discharged person an early mediation of the possibility for a discharge and its acceptance may eventually lower the expectance and thus eventually the aggressivity of reaction. Moreover it is too be asked like in the electrical analogy wether on average an exchange related to importance may eventually need less energy (inductance ?) than an exchange related to power.

At this place it should however be emphasized again that the electrical circuit analogy is only a very rough and rather experimental approach.

The notions power and importance are sometimes not seen as different features, but they are. In particular people sometimes try to gain importance via power. Some power struggle is related to that. Given the possibly different energy balance of the respective exchanges it is therefore to be asked in how far some kind of power struggle can be replaced by a different handling of importance.

prominence and radius of dominance

prominence and radius of dominance are terms, which are mostly used in topography. They are however also used in some somewhat analogous way in a societal context. In particular they are entering the assessment of what is rendered as an important environment. So let’s look again these definitions. If one is on a mountain peak then prominence is the height one has to at least go down to a saddle point in order to climb a higher mountain peak (if there is no higher peak, like in the case of an island then the elevation to sea-level is usually taken as prominence). This highest saddle point is called key saddle or key col. The highest peak(s) within neighbouring contour lines which meet at a key col is a socalled parent. The radius of dominance for a peak is usually the horizontal distance from the peak to the nearest surface point of same height measured at that height. These topographic terms are indicators for the visibility and height of a peak with respect to its surroundings. In particular a rather high mountain can have a small prominence if its part of a kind of high ridge. Rather high mountains can have a small dominance if there are a lot of high mountains in the ultimate vicinity. Prominence indicates how distinguished the individual peaks are with respect to their environment, i.e. how pronounced a “distinguishing border” appears. Dominance indicates how “individual” a peak is, that is wether - with respect to given surroundings - it would usually be rather regarded as part of a group or as an entity in itself. In short - prominence and dominance is perceived in relation to a given environment. This is also true for prominent members of a society that is there are B-celebrities etc. In a societal context the “topographical environments” which are looked at are however usually more complex. That is a person can for example be regarded as prominent among golfers, but be rather unknown in general etc. In particular the overall prominence depends often on the prominence and dominance of the subgroup(s) one looks at. It should also be pointed out that in comparision to the electrical analogy one would need to consider deep valleys of importance as peaks of “negative importance” with respect to some fixed mid-level like a “see-level”, i.e. like a level where one is rather indifferent wether to see a person or not. A person (peak) of very negative importance (i.e. an enemy) would then be a peak “behind the see-level”, i.e. at a place where one doesn’t really want to meet and see. In the electric analogy importance could thus here be eventually related to an electric potential where the “see level” could be an individual/societal or other (like importance for a purpose) importance zero level. For the description of dominance and prominance with respect to power this wouldn’t be necessary since power is in this analogy always greater or equal to zero.

But the actual “maps” of a “societal topography” are not only way more complex due to the various aspects which are involved, but also different according to differing individual perceptions. That is the maps may look differently for every individuum and aspect. The above can by the way also be mapped into the language of classical sociogramms. That is here e.g. one often looks at the “topography” of a certain group in the sense that peaks with a certain prominence are e.g. members of a school class and one aspect namely e.g. “likes” or “does not like” is indicating positive/negative importance above some (often rather fuzzy) threshold from see-level (usually drawn in different colors). The individual assessment is often indicated by arrows. The above reasoning thus allows to generalize such sociograms straightforwardly to include the more finegraded features of prominence and dominance. This may amongst others be useful for implementations in social network analysis. Like for example one can agglomerate subgroups as groups of peaks which are below a certain prominence to their respective neighbours. Likewise one can (additionally) place peaks which are below a certain dominance to their respective neighbours in one group, or connect such groupings with filters of absolute height levels etc.

prominence, dominance and social cohesion

The above mentioned extension to sociograms are of course motivated by the analogy of the topographical terms of dominance and prominence to their societal counterparts. That is a peak with high prominence but small dominance could for example be interpreted as a “personality” next to “stronger personalities”. An agglomeration of many peaks with a rather big dominance with repsect to another agglormeration (i.e. a “mountain, or a mountain chain) could be interpreted as a ”group“ with a commoon agenda. Note that topographical measurements like vicinity, height, prominence etc. depend again on the map one looks at i.e. one needs always to remember that this notion may again be different for every individuum and aspect. Social cohesion describes in some sense the (prospective) time evolution of a group, i.e. the stability of an agglomeration of peaks. (Group)-solidarity is usually the overall perception of the social cohesion of a group among its group members, the term seems however also be used sometimes in synonymity for social cohesion. In sociology one often differs between mechanical and organic solidarity. Here mechanical solidarity can be interpreted as a kind auf ”automatic“ group identity, that is people are automatically belonging to a group like by speaking the same language, kinship etc. Organic solidarity is derived via interdependencies among group members, i.e. via a ”social fabric“, which is created via interaction. I.e. here a ”mountain“ would be formed by a group with strong interconnectivities. The social cohesion of a group can be influenced via solidarity, in particular it can be changed by changing the perception about cohesion. That is a stronger solidarity may leed to a stronger group cohesion. Likewise ”outer enemies“ may enforce group cohesion via stronger solidarity among the ”endangered“ group members of a group. In topographical terms an ”outer enemy“ is a more or less close-by mountain. The bigger this mountain appears the bigger the ”danger“ that it may ”swallow“ or ”level out“ (erase) the smaller mountain, while neglecting the previous group topography (and thus in particular its internal hierarchy). Group cohesion is therefore sometimes furthered by leaders (”higher peaks within a group“) via eventually invoking a possibly exagerated danger of ”outer enemies“. Since perception is involved the ”visibility“ of a danger (i.e. how group members perceive an enemy) plays thus a rather big role, i.e. an easily identifyable enemy, like an army which may possibly invade a country is of course easier identifyable as an enemy than for example a rather invisible but real environmental threat.

Note that solitons (mountains which may approximately keep their shape, even when swallowed for a while) are especially interesting in this context.

As mentioned already above the overall prominence (e.g. of an individuum) depends often on the prominence and dominance of the subgroup(s) one looks at. That is a small peak in the midrange of a high mountain may still be higher then the top peak of a small mountain. This gives a rather visible image of how the individual notion of importance or power may depend on group importances or group power.

The enhanced means of global communication blurred and altered existing schemes of prominence and dominance, which has impacts on the human perception of importance.

newer communication means, importance and illusion

As illustrated above, depending on its survival needs and perceptions an individuum (or a group of individua) will seek to gain power or at least seek out for a possibility for power gain, i.e. it will seek out for positive importance.

Here a noteworthy feature is the illusion of positive importance. It seems that - like a placebo - alone the illusion of positive importance may support the endurance of hardship and the fight for survival - at least for a certain time.

Since probably the beginning of mankind people came up with stories in which people could imagine a different reality. Moreover these stories often included big powers and even supernatural powers and gods. Any “real” connection to such a supernatural force is of course leading to a higher importance, since it raises the possibility for more power. That is having such a connection it may be the case that a god “helps out” with it’s power. Any religious follower would of course call such a connection not an “illusion” but consider it as a religious reality. The religious reader is however kindly asked to accept for the rest of this essay the (actually rather more humble) assumption that such a connection may only be an illusion. It should also be pointed out that religious communities provide - apart from the religious aspect - usual real importance alone via their community, i.e. here the communities group importance may raise the individual importance.

Another rather strong mean which may serve as a temporal way to give an illusionnal feeling of positive importance are of course drugs (the motivation for using these could - at least in part - however also carry an autodestructive or other component). But of course there are also lighter versions of feeling (eventually illusionary) positive important, which are at the boundary between “real” and “illusionary” , like the happiness to be part of a beautiful nature or the joy about artwork.

It should also be remarked that there are communities which eventually provide false positive importance. Especially in communities with strong power struggles a possible support may be faked. Moreover it seems to happen more often that especially people in such an environment look for exagerated clues of support. In particular a constructive critique and true freedback may in such an environment already be regarded as “no support”. And it may be the case that only a rather exagerated clue like total obedience, calling someone a “great leader” etc. may be interpreted as support. That is here alone a distorted feedback mechanism may lead to an at least partial illusionary or distorted feeling of importance.

With the onset of new media new possibilities for the illusionary perception of positive importance became available. Likewise real community feedback of importance partially decreased. This will be further investigated.

importance and control

The feedback regarding importance is an {\em information} \footnote{side remark: in sofar the above heuristic comparision with photons is not too far fetched, in particular information can be encoded via the modulation of photons} and thus the transport of information in space and time will play a role.

Moreover it was already mentioned that importance is relative to a community/environment and since the transport of the information of importance (the feedback) is space-time dependent, the importance of a human individuum with respect to it’s community/environment will - to a certain extend - be also space-time dependent. That is an individual is usually important within a certain cosmographical region, in particular before the development of modern communication media (i.e. before higher developped space-time media were available, please see subsection \ref{exchange} exchange) a human’s importance was usually restricted to a rather small geographical location. Moreover before the development of writing a humans importance lasted only through oral renarration, i.e. the time transport of the information about an importance of an individuum was rather unreliable.

The feedback, i.e. the reflected information of importance can to some extend be seen as a shadow'' of importance, i.e. in some sense a persons importanceis (only) visible’‘ (at least for humans) via its feedback shadow''. The reader is invited to explore how the reconstruction from anabstract shadow/reflection’‘ works e.g. mathematically via the inverse Radontransform in the applet \href{}{radonge}, likewise the reader is invited to envisage how the reconstruction of the image of a real person works in one’s own brain from a given shadow or even more precise from an image in a mirror. The principle idea of the existence of such a reconstruction mechanism was also used in the \href{}{Allegory of the cave} by Plato.

As it was pointed out earlier importance is crucial to survival, it provides a possibility for more power. An individual feels save'' if it perceives it's own importance and power to a sufficient amount. Where the evaluation ofsufficiency’‘ is of course very individual. As pointed out in the last subsection even an illusion of importance could in principle be rendered as sufficient.

Depending on how sufficient an individual renders it’s own importance and depending on its survival will, the individual will try to maintain a certain level of importance. Here {\bf control} plays a crucial role. Like if an individual can’t perceive sufficient information about it’s own importance it will try to get better feedback, i.e. try to get more information signals of importance and it will eventually try to alter it’s environment in order to get more feedback of positive importance. This process makes usually the exertion of power necessary. Let’s look at this principle in a very canonical setting, which will turn out important later when discussing new media.

A sole human can survive in a natural environment via chasing, fishing and/or via growing crops. {\em Seeing} enough deer for hunting while {\em feeling able} to hunt and/or {\em feeling able} to have a big enough crop harvest is important. It means for the individuum that this natural environment which surrounds the individuum can a priori support (i.e. give power to) the individuum’s survival. I.e. a human individual could be interpreted as a kind of power peak, which is supported by plants etc. If an individuum would have e.g. many children \footnote{noteworthy here: children are to some extend often seen as future partial copies, as some kind of time extensions'' of the individuum itself and also as later support for the individuum} which can't survive for themselves then the individuum needs to have not only enough power for supporting them but also needs to find and create more {\em evidence} for the importance of itself and it'sfamily’’. Similar things hold for a group of people, who feels as an entity'', here however the importance of the individual subparts for the survival of the wholegroup entity’‘ is less clear, as for the case of a parent/child relation (please see section \ref{cohesion} {\em prominence, dominance and social cohesion}). The crucial part in groups is the feeling of support, i.e. of positive importance. As already pointed out an individual will usually try to maintain that support and in particular it will be willing to {\bf exert some power for that maintenance of support and possible support}. That is a individual will try to chase more and grow more crops for a group than for itself if it feels supported by the group etc. Similar things hold for “chinistic add-ons’‘ like tools. Tools are usually supportive in the quest for survival and an individual will thus try to create and maintain it’s tools.

{\bf This scheme gives also some indications about the evolutionary role of a potential neurophysiological asymmetry between rejection and approval} (please see section \ref{importance} importance). For an individual a rejection from a person could mean that this person is unsupportive and thus apriori potentially damaging to the individuals power. The {\em speed and intensity of a reaction to unsupportive features} seems to be the more important the less power and support an indivduum has and/or feels to have. That is on average it is eventually better for the power balance to fastly abandon (or destroy) a potentially unsupportive feature/individual even if this would turn out to be wrong than to keep and in particular maintain it with one’s own power. To approve a potentially supportive part'' may usually happen less fast, since an individuum was already able to survive without that extrapart’‘ previously. Or in other words - the more adverse (negative important) something/someone is/has become the more damaging it is to {\em spend} one’s power on that adversary. The possible impact of a mistake in such a decision depends of course on the real'' positive importance and not on theperceived’‘ i.e {\em reconstructed} importance of something/someone. The better the “construction of importance via feedback’‘ works the less crucial mistakes are going to take place that is the more {\bf control} a person has over its community/environment the better the chances of less such mistakes.

Note that a “gn switch’‘ of importance versus others plays here a special role. That is if an individuum switches from positive importance to negative importance with respect to a human than this means that this human has not only lost a possible support but that it has in addition gained an enemy, i.e. a potentially dangerous adversary. The more positive important a person was the more damaging such a switch could be for the human. Likewise the usual reactions to such switches are rather strong and fast. Deceit, cheating on one’s partner are examples of such sign switches from positive importance to negative importance. Needless to say that such a switch is even more harmful if the new adversary allies with an enemy, i.e. gains more negative importance via that new alliance.

These examples should illustrate why {\em control} is related to the quality of reconstructing the shadow of importance''. The less the means forreconstruction of importance’‘ the more power has to be applied for getting more control over one’s own importance. This power is then however lacking for exerting power like in order to gain importance. That is if an individual doesn’t know which plants are good to eat then it will spend quite some of it’s power to find out, which one’s are good to eat, easy to plant and harvest instead of actually planting rightous good crop. That is even if there are enough plants which could support the survival (i.e. maintain the power for living) of that individual i.e. if the indivivual has a real'' possibility for that power of maintaining its own life (i.e. alone by this possibility it has areal’‘ importance) it may not be able to immediately perceive that possibility of power to all extend but would need to exert power to get more feedback, i.e. here this means it would need to try out planting new crops, carefully eat new crops, discard eventually poisonous crops etc. Only if it has found a sufficiently supportive crop it may feel somewhat save to be able to survive. Observe that the “hadow of importance’‘ includes two crucial features, namely the quality of the feedback itself and the ability to perceive and correctly interpret the feedback. The net result within an individual shall be called perceived importance versus the real importance, which is given by the pure possibility of support.

Accordingly a human tends to ask for a rather steady reassurement of positive importance within a relationship. Any hint of a diminishing positive importance is strongly perceived, since it could be a sign of an upcoming “gn switch’‘ of a partner who has usually per definition a very strong positive (emotional) importance for that human.

Note that the feeling/knowledge of having one's life under control'', i.e. the feeling of being able to reconstruct enough of one's own (one's family, one's add-ons, one's support group etc.) real and sufficient importance and having enough power for survival seems to be essential for a human. That is this knowledge contributes and seems to be quite essential to happiness. If there is not enough perceived or real importance and power then this is usually rather bad for an individual/group, since it would need to find means of power which would raise the perceived and/or real importance. Depending on the amount of power needed this can be stressful, very stressful or too stressful like in the neurophysiological example of section \ref{importance}importance’’.


In electrostatics (a part of physics, which describes electrical phenomena without time changes) the quantity \href{}{\em dipole moment} of a pointlike object or simplified speaking it’s {\em polarization density}\footnote{ \href{}{Wikipedia} has a rather detailled explanation for which cases polarization density and dipole moment conincide} is proportional to charge and distance. That is the polarization density of some pointlike object is (positively/negatively) higher the higher the (positive/negative) charge and the larger the distance to that charged something. If one has a couple of pointlike arranged charges than the net {\bf polarization} (density) of these charges appears as the sum of the individual polarization densities. In particular from this it follows that if one has two pointlike charges of opposite sign which are at a certain distance to each other then the net polarization (density) of those two charges is proportional to the distance between the two charges (such an arrangement is called a dipole''). In a societal context that can be somewhat seen analogous as watching two enemies: if two equally strong enemies (i.e.oppositely charged’‘ or polarized'' individua) are too close they maykill’‘ each other (net charge and distance zero) and thus would have basically no effect on the observer. In other words in this case a polarization is only noticed if the enemies are kept at a certain distance''. Another variant is however that the twoenemies’‘ are kept in “cillation’‘ (like in the forth and back of a war). In this case they would - following the electrical analogy - rather work as an antenna. And in fact: a war draws in attention.

The term {\bf charge} seems in the linguistical context more related to an emotional or perceptional evaluation of importance. That is a person is usually called charged'' if it is in an emotional state of alarm, that is if it ispositively or negatively loaded’’. Such a perceptional evaluation is however often linked to a real'' distribution of importance. That is if a person is potentially harmful to another person, like by taking away ressources/support from that person this person is ofreal’‘ (as opposed to only perceived) negative importance to the other person and depending on how correct the evaluation of importance is, this will usually result in a corresponding perceived importance. However the notion polarization'' in a greater social science context seems to be related to a perceptional notion of importance but also to the feature ofreal’‘ importance. So for example group polarization describes the effect that \href{}{Group discussions to consensus resulted in statistically significant shifts toward the extremes of the scales.''}, whereassocial polarization’‘ is usually related to an economical polarization between monetarily rich and poor.

An interesting point about the term polarization is the relevance of the notion of a distance'', since this relates again to the topographical notions of prominence and dominance and to the relative importance of objects towards each other. Likewise if one would like to come back to the electrical analogy and if one would {\bf relate importance to charge} (as used in electrostatics) then loosely speaking the analogy of {\bf potential} of an object/individual would be something as importance per spatial distance \footnote{Here thinking about the Coulomb potential}, that is the further one is away from a pointlikecharged’‘ object (i.e. the bigger the distance) the {\bf less} is it’s potential (i.e. the over distance felt charge'') but the higher appears it's polarization density. Or in other words here the potential can be interpreted as a special kind of spatially dependent distribution of (felt) charges (namely one where the chargefeels’‘ higher, i.e. feels more positively/negatively potent the closer one is to a certain point). Voltage would be the difference of potentials.

Or in other words in this analogy charge'' alters vaguely as (is proportional to’’) polarization per distance'' and vice versa. This {\em could} also be seen as a simplified variant of \href{'s_equations}{Gauss law} \footnote{i.e. in one dimension and if one looks only at what is usually called bound charge densities, the inclusion offree’‘ charges shall here be postponed}. In the societal analogy such a {\bf Gauss law of human behaviour} could thus remind of {\em \bf how some people become important (charged’’) via polarization and how importance can polarize’’}. In Electrodynamics Gauss law is part of the socalled \href{’s_equations}{Maxwell’s macroscopic equations}.

Note also that if one would like to pay attention to time dependence within that comparision (i.e. look at electrodynamics instead of electrostatics) then this would involve the introduction of magnetism. A very, very rough simplification'' of \href{'s_equations}{Amperes circuital law with Maxwells correction} could read as: {\emThe way a certain spatial distribution of charges \footnote{Note that here {\bf not} the Coulomb potential is meant, but charge plus constant times electrical field} changes in time corresponds (is proportional) to a certain spatial change (rotation) of a magnetizing field'' and vice versa''}. In our rough analogy a magnetizing field could thus be seen on a first glance to be related to theattractivity of locations’‘ (let’s call for simplicity a repulsion a negative attractivity). That is this simplified Ampere's law of human behaviour'' could translate into: {\em \bfThe time change (speed) of a certain spatial distribution of human importance can lead to a (certain form of) increase or decrease of the attractivity of a location vs another and vice versa’’}. Interestingly one could similarily very roughly translate a simplified version of Faraday’s law of induction into: {\em \bf A change in the attractivity of a location over time can induce spatial changes of differences in human potential and vice versa.} Moreover Gauss law of magnetism could be simplified translated into {\emthe attractivity of a location comes like a mini-magnet always with a north- and with a south-pole}. Or in other words in this simplified analogy of Gauss law of magnetism the attractivity of a space time location always comes here as a kind of dichotomy that is rather losely speaking {\em \bf “at some might find attractive might be repelling to others’’}.

The word “attractivity” is in english mostly used in the context of beauty, comfort etc. if we disregard some scientific applications. The word “Fascinativity” doesn’t exists (sofar), it would describe the more ambivalent, “tantalizing” notion of something which makes you “fascinated”, i.e. drawn to something by something which may not be (solely) attractivity. The words origins comes from the latin word “fascis” i.e. bundle, gerbe, sheave. That is a fascinating thing draws other things into a particular direction and may make those things eventually align and move in unisono. The word fascism by the way has the same origin. Things with a high power density can be fascinating, like one might be fascinated by nuclear power generation via e.g. the beauty of it’s Cerenkov radiation, but also by the shear danger and power it encompasses. In the comparision energy density (or eventually energy flux) could compare to fascinativity, with which one could eventually compare plastic surgery, brainboosters and sugardaddies to some kind of special Lorentztransformations-analogs.

It should again be pointed out that this analogies should be taken with a very, very large grain of salt. That is although the above was provocatively formulated as some kind of Maxwell's equations of human behaviour'' the actual intention of these writings is actually not to findMaxwells equations of human behaviour’‘ (although the author finds that the analogy needs astonishingly small tweaking \footnote{and a believer in a bitwise constructed world could thus meanly infer that the existence of such a rather untweaked analogy might be due to the self-similarity of a high dimensional hypercube} but rather to give hints on the mental constructs which could have been involved when the electrical phenomena were dubbed and casted into laws, to entertain, to get some clues for game constructs and to give a glance on possible problems which could be involved when trying to model human behaviour.

adaption or migration

games, social media and importance

Games are of course a popular way via which one may obtain (illusionary) positive importance. The possibility to leave reality and to become e.g. a “king” in a MMPORG is one of the components which makes people play. There are other aspects, which were sort of summarized in the question:

“Why are people surprised when a console with no killer games has relatively poor sales?”

by minecraft creator Markus Persson. If one thinks about simulating enonomic and political scenarios (like in the project MMOGEP) one has of course to take these motivations into account.

In her short talk “Gaming can make a better world” Jane McGonigal illustrated the rise of computer games and what could possibly make them so different from real life. She identified four major components which she thinks games are making people good at. She was critized for this oversimplifications, however I think these simplifications may be very useful in understanding the involved processes. She identified gamers as becoming good or virtuosos at ( remark: the below citations may be partially wrong due incomplete auditory transmission ):

Urgent optimism: “Think of this as extreme self-motivation, urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately, to tackle an obstacle combind with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that its always worth trying and trying now gamers don’t sit around.

This may be in part be related to the thrill which is related to a rapid increase in importance.

Social fabric: “Gamers are virtuousos at weaving a tight social fabric there is a lot of interesting research that we like people better after we play a game with them even if they’ve beaten us badly and the reason is it takes a lot of trust to play a game with someone.”

I don’t believe that one always likes people better “even if they’ve beaten us badly”, but the “social fabric” seems to be related to the question of feedback, i.e. the gameplay may make enhanced feedback necessary and may give people a better chance to perceive their own importance within the game.

Blissful productivity: “We know that when we are playing a game that we are actually happier working hard than we are relaxing, hanging out.”

This may mean that activity/work per se is important. The type of activity may also matter. In particular unpleasant work may reduce happiness. Since unpleasant work has to be done in the real world, it is thus very important to identify factors which may make work more pleasant (like smaller work loads (cleaning a toilet once in a couple of days is less problematic than constantly as a job), chatting while doing routinal, dull work can be better than working alone etc.) and to find out how to compensate for the eventually involved reduction in “happiness”.

Epic meaning: “Gamers love to be touched to onspiring missions, to human planetary scale stories.”

Being involved in human planetary scale missions is of importance and this has to be kept in mind.

Jane Mc Gonigal had in her talk mostly “real games” in mind, i.e. games which were called in section of this draft “(Serious games)” and social media (which is not on Azimuth) invented reality games (IRG). As pointed out in this section social media offen carries a gamelike component. In this section it was pointed out that:

Although the border between “invented reality” and “reality” is blurry it is to some extend possible to identify distinguishing characteristics of the rules which govern a real or “invented real” process and thus the features of an Those include the characteristics: SOCIETAL - “real” rules are usually prone to a historic and/or societal process that is they emerge more or less slowly given the societal circumstances ADAPTED - “real” rules are rather incremental, that is they are adjusted in an adaptive way (exeption: revoulutions) DEMOCRATIC - “real” rules have often been made/approved by a bigger group of people rather then only by a few individuals. (exeption: dictatorships) In an “invented reality” rather the opposite characteristics hold.

Social media site like Facebook, Google+, Lifejournal, Linkedin, Youtube etc. are usually not considered as being games per se but rather networks which further via their technological facilities human communication (in recent time actually also human/computer communication). However as also pointed out in that section the boundaries to gaming are blurry.

In particular the residency in a social network can be compared with a residency in a real state. That is - in some simplifying sense - some big social media companies can be meanwhile seen as something as “ministates” – especially if they are commanding strong customer ties and if they receive regular customer “payments”. Customers of such companies can in this very simplifying sense be quite regarded as “inhabitants”, likewise the “payments”, like in the form of “content”, or in the form of “willingness to perceive advertisment” or e.g. in the form of real payments for services could accordingly be regarded as “tax payments” (like for the communication “roads” and storage facilities).

Of course the social binding in a real state ist much bigger as for example in a commercial social network, on the other hand the (social) binding of a very active network member is usually rather strong and often much stronger than the typical binding to a commercial “brand” even in the case of a strong customer retention policy.

Likewise in some simplified sense a country can also be seen as a geographically fixed company. I.e. a company which is in charge for building and maintaining infrastructure via tax payments. Again - the main difference to a “normal” company is that its customers are very bound to the company, because they often have most of their social net, culture, language etc. bound to that geographical location. Moreover international immigration standards make moving to another “company” not so easy. This is one reason why the CEOs of these companies (I.e. the governments) are often elected by it’s “customers” (i.e. the citizens), a principle called democracy. Social networks are somewhat similar, here the customer is not bound to a geographical location but the longer the customer stays in a network, connects, moves around and puts his/her data into the network the more he/she will be bound to that network. So social networks and similar game environments are more and more something like a “country” than a “company of the usual type”. And as in the case for real countries: outside debts reduce the navigation space of the rulers/government of a country. That is creditors or investors demand their more or less big share of social network companies and may interfere in policy making. The “tax payments” of “inhabitants” of e.g. Google+ or Facebook are sofar the customers attention and personal data and of course investors want to generate revenue from that. This has to be kept in mind.

So in short social media sites would usually be regarded as a (new) type of “reality” (communication network) rather then an “invented reality” last but not least because of their structural similarity to already existing “real environments” (like telecommunication, broadcasting etc.). However features like the strong social bonding and other rather hidden social implications within such networks suggest that the mixing with invented realities has to be taken increasingly into account.

By interpreting some social media sites as “ministates” one could accordingly compare the usual questions of transparency and democratic exertion of influence within real states with that of social media. As an example it is thus noteworthy that Googles private business decisions regarding the perfomance rights of youtube users or the restricted means of youtube user participation in Googles general business decisions concerning youtube (which concerns the users themselves) seem to be seen in wide social spheres as completely acceptable, whereas similar policies in “real” states would eventually be already regarded as “undemocratic”. This acceptance may be due to the fact that such social media site are still less seen as a big MMPORG, i.e. as an “invented reality” (with strong real life implications) but rather as a “real” telecommunication kind of service.