Sunday, October 25, 2009

Freedom and the Central Limit Theorem

This may sound dorky, but I think we need to retain maximum degrees of freedom in society, in a statistical sense. The more degrees of freedom we have, the more the law of large numbers - the central limit theorem - can work its magic.  The central limit theorem is a buffer against tyranny.  In the absence of force lies true normality.  Under the law of large numbers, humans and society itself will tend toward its natural mean. Variance is important to our system. In variance lies our societal resilience. Inter-personal variance is the source of innovation, new ideas. But without the large numbers, the degrees of freedom, the sample mean can easily become biased from the true mean. When the law of large numbers breaks down, the mean becomes subject to increasing random drift. The more governments or large institutions control the people, the more correlation among people, the lower the effective population size and the effective degrees of freedom. At the extreme, we become a society of ants, in which we are so inter-correlated that we are in effect one superorganism- a sample size of one.

But we can feel it already- the subtle clamping down of inter-personal variance that occurs every day in our society. Before we can have power over ourselves and our family, we need to convince those already in charge that we are ONE OF THEM. We need to don suits, or (more importantly) close our minds to certain possibilities that we are not supposed to consider. The pressure to conform is real, and it causes our opinions to correlate with dominant opinions (which may or may not be the "normal"). It reduces the effective population size.

We are a social species. We like to copy others and we will always emulate and copy, but that’s why it’s dangerous to have highly centralized social political structures. To have diversity, we need localism, we need freedom to diversify. We need the power to act on our convictions, even if it differs from the dominant view. When we talk about freedom, we need to make it clear: freedom does not mean the freedom to escape poverty, the freedom to have a secure job with health care benefits. Freedom is a function of the total effective population size: the number of independently acting, free human beings in the system. Freedom is the amount of power that is in the hands of independent human individuals. The more we talk about self-reliant, independent people, and not countries, or institutions, the more we are free.

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