Who Watches The Watchers? You.

We humans can’t do much on our own; for that, we must join orgs. Orgs like families, firms, schools, clubs, and nations. But the more deeply involved we get with such orgs, to benefit from them, the more we also get attached to them, and entrenched within them. And thus the more we risk being exploited or hurt by others in those orgs.

One way to minimize such risks is to always stay ready to switch at a moment’s notice. Don’t invest in the particulars of any org, but only in skills and resources that are similarly valued by many orgs. And then switch often, leaving your marriages, firms, nations, etc. at the first hint of problems. This approach avoids both the largest harms, but also the largest gains, of org attachment.

Another approach is to make careful choices early in life, before one gets much attached. Collect track records about who does how well when attached to which orgs, and then pick those that have done best for people like you. However, much of the suffering of the attached is hidden; their associates would punish them if they showed it more publicly. So good track records can be hard to find. And early in life you may not be good at judging track record claims.

A related approach is to look to your early allies, and choose orgs as they choose. Some of them have probably considered the above issues, and by going into orgs together you and your allies can help each other there. At least if you can trust them to stay your allies.

A last approach is to try to reason out the game theory of each org, to guess roughly how bad it could get and what are your chances. For example, internal arenas of competition may mitigate some possible harms. And many orgs have formal “dispute resolution” processes that they say help you in cases of your being especially hurt by associates. But how sure are you that those internal games will stay the same, or that you really understand them, especially early in life when you must choose?

Governments often claim to be especially useful in protecting you from harms that you might suffer from being attached to other orgs. And they often claim that you can especially trust them, relative to other orgs, due to their transparent internal processes. But these claims seem suspect to me. Like most orgs, the main reasons to trust governments are the track records you can find for them. Which don’t seem to me substantially better than for most other kinds of orgs.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about these track records.

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