HUMINT: Considering the similarities between computers and human beings, both are analogous in that they have hardware and software. The first is made of metal, silicon and code – the second is made of neurons, nerves, and experience. Computer hardware has evolved dramatically since its initial invention. According to Moore’s Law, transistors have consistently shrunk by half - approximately every two years since the 1960s. If we were to compare the size or processing power of a single neuron to a single transistor, we might say our brain “power” would have increased more than 2 million percent since Moore announced his findings in 1965.
The human brain has not physically evolved by any significant measure in the last 50,000 years. The hardware component of human intelligence is fixed in time, only subject to slight variability of our individual DNA.
If the analogy between computer software and human software holds, beyond general speculation, we might assert that a human being’s software is what truly distinguishes his or her performance from their fellow human beings.
The most observable human software processes occur during collective interaction. Languages, academics, governments, religions, and games are all examples of social software processed by groups of minds. Each of these social software examples is of “established rule sets” that individual participants are obligated to follow in order to determine their individual success or failure. Success or failure in this context applies to the individual participants as well as the software itself. Social software crashes litter the history books. Languages are forgotten, academic pursuits are revised, governments have fallen to ruins, religions have been rejected and some games are never played by anyone ever again.
What prompts social software to crash? Is humanity always guaranteed an upgrade whenever social software crashes? Can we consciously upgrade our social software, or the social software of threatening cultures?
Of particular concern in our era are forms of government. Be they democracies, dictatorships, theocracies or monarchies; what prompts government software to crash is geo-political stress. The source of stress is almost always famine, disease, war, ideology, as well as economic and technology. In the case of governments, there is no guarantee a social software crash will lead to an upgrade. Without significant external (software) support, social software crashes are more likely to result in a downgrade. The French Revolution (1789), Russian Revolution (1917) and Iranian Revolutions (1979) all ousted a monarchy that resulted in an ideological cleansing. Each was a downgrade. Fortunately France appears to have fully recovered, whereas Russia and Iran have not yet.
The American Revolution (1776) was an upgrade that set a new global precedent. The American rebels who founded the United States were the most skilled managers and technocrats of their day. Not only did they possess leadership experience, they rooted their social theories in the best ideas of the Greek and Roman societies they admired from an historical distance. The governing software in the U.S. that followed the American Revolution was a clear upgrade to colonial and imperial designs that preceded it. The upgrades in the U.S. have been adopted in part or in whole by many countries around the world, to the betterment of many billions of lives. The stress that caused the crash of colonial American software was economic and ideological. The mass exodus of Americans from Europe instigated a new world view, new levels of competence and prosperity without the accompanying legitimacy Americans felt they deserved. And thus, the system crashed.
Resistance to upgrades comes primarily from ancient minds. Ancient in this context does not refer to a timeline or even a point in time, but a regressive version of social software. The Roman and Greek empires represent a relatively modern version of social software no longer in use today. Both the Roman and Greek systems eventually crashed and were relegated to historical memory. The Apache and Bedouin tribes remain in existence to this day but represent an earlier version of social software, arguably more resilient, but less technologically productive. Resilience and technological advancement both require unique forms of social intelligence. Lessons can be learned from all versions of social software to show what not to do as well as derive sustainable upgrades, like guaranteeing individual liberty and ensuring personal responsibility with a competent judiciary. Fortunately, America’s founding rebels saw fit to include a mechanism for nonviolent incremental upgrades America’s governing code – the U.S. Constitution can be and has been amended to better govern Americans.
Not all governing software is created equal, nor does existing governing software, just by the nature of its existence, deserve equal opportunity in the world today. Incompatible versions of governing software will cause serious conflict. Some versions of governing software in existence today are incompatible with the people they claim to govern. For example, theocracy, like communism is a version of governing software that abandons individual liberty and personal responsibility for the dream of a utopian ideal. In so doing, communists and theocrats tend to slaughter the same people their rhetoric was engineered to liberate.
With the success of individual liberty and personal responsibility enshrined in many governing institutions around the world today, fewer and fewer institutions of government are incompatible with each other. Therefore the likelihood of total war is diminishing every day. We now know that the problem of upgrading our social software isn’t a function of our biological hardware but instead resides in the social software we choose to govern ourselves. The demand to upgrade governing software will focus on ancient minds operating versions of governing software incompatible with their people and the rest of the world.