We have seen a centuries-long increase in the scale and scope of governance, and today we see many forms of global governance. While the literature has so far identified many costs and benefits of global governance, I here suggest that we add one so-far-neglected consideration to the list: rot. While many kinds of systems tend to innovate and grow with time, other kinds of systems tend to rot, decay, and die. We should consider the risks that global governance may increase the rot of our total world system.
Fantastic comment! Thanks
To put forward a hypothesis based on your point: I think when complex systems survive, it’s because they enable constructive interactions, laterally, between their sub-components.
“Constructive” becomes the new term to define. What I mean is a domain whose agents innovate in response to problems, with the ability for agents to cooperatively share their solutions, and without any one agent becoming so dominant as to prevent all the others from meaningfully evolving.
The ecosystem is constructive to the extent that no one species can dominate. This illustrates the danger of invasive species: when a new species enters a domain and has explosive success there, it pushes the rest toward extinction and limits diversity. This creates a bottleneck period (maybe millions of years long) during which the fate of the ecosystem depends on a small handful of species.
The ecosystem, of course, is not intentionally self-regulating. At least one can say it's an open question whether the collective effects of the ecosystem act to stabilize environmental conditions (Gaia hypothesis) or create destabilizing feedback loops leading to mass extinctions (Medea hypothesis). And it’s even possible that by periodically killing off much of life, but not all of it, the ecosystem is actually magnifying constructive competition.
Some complex systems do actively self-regulate towards competition, however. This is basically the ideal picture of capitalism: a government exists to create a stable economic playing field within which any agent has the potential to turn a profit with a valuable good or idea. Without government there is no capitalism, only disaggregated fiefdoms; without capitalism, a large government is rigid and brittle. (And of course monopoly and state capture both can lead to a version of capitalism that lacks lateral constructive exchanges.)
Another complex system that self-regulates toward lateral constructive exchanges is the brain, at least according to Marvin Minsky’s agent theory of mind. In this system, the brain consists of a hierarchy of agents that all try to make sense of an input stream and produce outputs. If the input has lots of error relative to an agent's model, an agent will fail to interpret it—become "confused"—and send only a weak signal. The agent that sends the strongest signal thus has the chance to relay its message up the chain and ultimately produce action. The top-level activity of the brain is therefore not to limit or regulate its composing agents, but to mediate between them to produce an output for the whole system.
Centralized systems fail when they impose too much control on their subsystems, such that the system can only fail all at once. Centralized systems succeed when their subsystems can act independently and non-hierarchically (within the restrictions and guarantees imposed by the larger system); this allows subsystems to succeed or fail independently of each other, and means that small failures can be self-healing as surviving agents take on the roles of failed agents.
For any complex system, there is an ideal but unknowable balance of freedoms to provide to subsystems, and restrictions to enforce to maintain cohesion and inner stability. I suspect that for any successful "world government", the ideal balance would be very much tilted toward freedom: the central body manages response to planet-wide threats and enforces guarantees on human rights, but devolves most everything else.
What do you mean by system there? What rots is a particular set of laws, rules etc... My point is just that you don't need a revolution to throw that all out and start again. Though, more likely, you only throw out one part at a time.
I strongly agree that complex systems tend to decay, ossify, and lose effectiveness over time. In other words they rot, and they do so rather quickly.
There are a lot of diverse explanations of why this happens, from Tainter's theory of declining marginal returns, to Mancur Olsen's observations that rent seeking will occur among coalitions, to rising bureaucracy. Evolutionary theorist John Stewart has also written on the topic.
Stepping back, complex coordinated problem solving systems requires feedback on how well they actually do at actually solving constantly changing problems. But there are no absolute standards of how well problems can be solved. What we can observe is whether the organization is able to persist or survive, and whether it does so better than comparative organizations (itself at an earlier stage or other organizations in a similar environment). Competition has its problems, but it can be constructive when done right. Organizations can compete for survival and relative success and can learn from each other and benchmark successes and failures.
Huge topic, but I am not aware of any complex integrated system (organism, organization, hive, et) which has thrived long term without the feedback and discipline of competition. I seriously doubt that a world organization without competition could avoid rapid rot and disastrous collapse.
If we substitute entropy for rot it may be easier to see the distinction between global governance and individual countries or corporations.In physics entropy is the rate of decrease of overall energy concentration following interaction between systems. In this concept the number of interactions and so space is inferred to increase. By analogy in our case, replace energy by ability of the entity to grow (not work as in physics) and gain its goals. Individual countries compete (interact) with others and each interaction dilutes its ability unless that ability is somehow restored e.g. innovation. On the other hand in theory global governance seeks to reduce interactions ( competition). The available "space" is fixed so decay rate should be less. This does not address competition between elites who constitute the governance but nonetheless individual county decay rates might be higher in the ideal.
Most of the bad things one could say about Google services getting worse seem to be deliberate choices because they're good for Google's bottomline; I would not call that 'rotting'. But if you disagree and believe they're rotting (despite rewriting everything constantly), well, that just means lacker is that much more wrong.
Does Google really look like it "isn't rotting"? Many people think that Google services are not as good as they used to be.
I've been thinking about the rotting of our relationship for a long time. In particular, laws and legal norms are the same form of mutual relations between people as morality and the basic commandments.
Is the world government rotting? Is there a world government? I would like to know what you mean by government at the level of planet Earth. Is this the United Nations? International monetary funds? The United States of America?
Putrefaction in the general sense of the word is a normal phase of the environment. This is a necessity, a mechanism that allows you to rejuvenate the system. If we compare it with nature, then rotting is a very necessary thing. But is it possible to compare the rotting of an old tree and the rotting of our artificially created communities like Russia (where I live) or the USA?
I think that philosophical thinking in this regard is limited to understand the true state of things. We still have not created a mixture of disciplines in the 21st century that would combine biology, physics, mathematics, sociology, philosophy to give us an understanding of the real picture of the world.
After all, we are reasoning within the framework. We created these frameworks ourselves. In addition to the framework of our thinking and perception of the world, we have the framework of our apparatuses - any science also has the framework of cognition.
To answer the question of the rotting of humanity at the level of the planet Earth, a complex system of the type of Strong Artificial Intelligence is needed. A bunch of disparate brains who are holding discussions here cannot give us the final correct actual result. What can we do?
Eternal disputes and the search for truth have been going on for thousands of years. Has anyone found it? Even in small communities there was no way to put everything in its place, what can we say about 8,000.000.000 brains scattered all over the planet, which form networks of governments?
Does government play such a life-forming role that we attach to it? Do you think that government is the ultimate decision-making station? But are the laws issued, of which there are thousands, read and discussed by people? Do laws and all the subtleties play a role in our relationship? We do not look into the "Roman law" when we make this or that decision in life. We are ruled by the unconscious, intuition, collective insanity to a greater extent than reason and consciousness.
I just don't know how to answer your question. I believe that no brain can think within the framework of the world government, and we have not yet created a truthful mechanism that would not lie to us, which could open our eyes to the real state of affairs. All our universities have feedback on funding from that very government. All our scientists are dependent on the authorities.
We need to understand the role of government in our lives. In Russia, the role of the government is minimal. We don't rely on Putin or anyone else from his group at all. We have been living like this for hundreds of years, apart from our state. The peoples of Russia, of which there are hundreds, live separately. And somehow we are still alive, we have not rotted, we pass on genes, we raise children, we are looking for methods and ways of earning money. I have never felt the presence of state aid in my life. School education was built on the efforts of erudite and disinterested people, who were teachers. They were ideological people, they received very little money, but they still came to work and gave us knowledge. Despite the incredibly stupid education system, we survived, we revealed ourselves to the world.
Our strength should not be underestimated. We are strong. We've been through ice ages, we've been through terrible times of world wars. I claim that the apparent decay from individual societies to states is just incomplete knowledge. Life always finds ways to move on. Our reasoning is not life. These are attempts to arrange models, theories. Attempts. That's what's important. We do not have a mechanism of mathematical statistics within humanity on the whole planet. We do not have algorithms, because in such a rapidly changing system as humanity, there is no way to apply global functions. Such mathematics is not yet in circulation in the world consciousness.
No one set a task for mathematicians to find out the most true state of things. Mathematics has been tested by physics more than once as an incredible apparatus for predicting the actual real structures of the universe. Why we still don't use mathematics to understand ourselves is unknown to me.
Any philosophy has linguistic limits to the description of reality, every author and writer knows about the limits of language
We have to resort at least to mathematics to describe the world around us
Who will do it?
While I agree with that general definition of the term, I don't think that general definition applies to some of your examples. For example, in software (with which I'm intimately familiar), loss of effectiveness over time is often due not to changes in the software itself, but to changes in the environment (underlying components, operating system, interfaces with other systems, etc.).
So, it seems that you may be including stagnation in your examples, as well as rot? I have no bone to pick either way, but I suggest you might want to more clearly define it, as the answers to the questions may change depending on how tightly or loosely that's defined.
Yes other things can rot, but global entrenched things seem more likely to rot than their opposite.
"One"? The whole entire system can rot.
No, "rot" is not just misalignment. An old man's body is not just misaligned with his world; it is overall less functional.
I think the term "rot" is too vague to offer much help here, unless it can be better defined.
In the sense that you appear to be using it, I think rot could potentially be defined as happening when a unit of some kind (organism, organization, etc.) becomes misaligned with the environment in which is "lives". Companies rot when they can no longer meet the needs of their markets or can no longer compete with other companies in the same market. Organisms rot when they can no longer live effectively within their environment or can no longer compete effectively with other organisms in the same environment. Governments rot when they can no longer meet the needs of their constituents (which could potentially be either the citizens or the elites that benefit from the citizens' efforts), or when they can no longer effectively compete with other governments in the same political sphere.
Stated this way, I think rot may indicate an inability to access appropriate resources (money, food to survive, etc.) - whether that lack is due to a lack of mechanisms to "harvest" resources that exist, or unsuccessful competition for those resources.
Governments which "rot" would this be those that fail to provide appropriate resources to their constituents (at top or bottom). Which would make them subject to collapse, coup, domination (by a competing government), or revolution.
There is another aspect of this as well, though, that what counts as adequate resources for the constituents in any social structure (including government) is determine not just by actual need but also by perception - which is based heavily on social standing. Thus, if the social environment pits citizens against each other for standing, the government might rot because of a lack of perception of inadequate resources by some portion of the population, even though they might be perfectly well fed and sheltered.
If this is on the right track, then it suggests that world governments would benefit from a lack of competition to acquire resources, but would suffer from diversity (which would then make different sub-groups perceive themselves as not having adequate resources, regardless of their actual circumstances). Over a long enough period of time, diversity is likely to decrease. But in the short term, the bringing all peoples of the world under a single umbrella would be likely to cause high levels of conflict which would lend itself to rot - and thus possibly collapse - over the short- to mid-term.
I think it's important to be quite careful here about exactly what rots. In particular, it's the laws and regulations that rot not the politically legitimate system itself that rots.
In other words, one always remains free to just do what Justinian advocated and throw the whole damn system out. Or even just throw pieces out while keeping the government (eg the way the UK parliment could scrape all the existing laws and pass some super minimal replacement while still retaining legitimacy)
Many rivers are older than the land over which they run. They cut through mountain ranges. This happens when the mountains rise slower than the rate at which the rivers can erode them. A river has no permanent material - not even the banks. I guess the relevance here is that sometimes the persistent things are surprising and counter intuitive.
Cultural things with no formal organisation sometimes out live the people that carry the culture. Languages for example often have no governing body but remain intelligable across generations, particularly once a large body of written text comes into existance.
There are many more things than goverment to worry about if stagnation and demise of intelligent life on Earth is the concern. Government may help overcome rot sometimes while in other cases cause it.
Is the danger in world government rotting or in it not rotting? I guess if its rotting brings us down with it then the danger is rotting. If it persists but inhibits human development then the danger is not rotting.
Predicting a source of species demise or its length of existance is probably not possible.
Google rewriting code is an example of not rotting on the larger scale by replacing the smaller rotting pieces.
You body has been largely replaced a number of times in your life. You haven't rotted at anything like the rate at which some of your cells have.
Replacing parts is a way of not rotting.