Re: followers/leaders (was You may not believe in God but She still believes in you, most of the time)

Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 12:39:32 MDT

Bonnie writes:
> I would like to discuss the following three types of personalities:
> followers, leaders, and independent thinkers.
> At some point in the future, people will have the ability to engineer the
> personalities of members of the succeeding generations. If you were, say,
> creating the members of an expedition that would colonize a new planet, how
> would you handle the independent thinking vs. "true believer" trait?
> [...]
> Would it be better to have a group of independent thinkers (who could, for
> example, figure out how to best utilize the resources of the new planet), or
> would it be better to have just one or two independent thinkers and the rest
> followers and leaders (presumably only a couple of leaders and the rest
> followers)?

It's an interesting point, but I would look at it from a slightly
different perspective, as a question of how we coordinate the various
activities involved in the project.

The independent-thinker model is relatively decentralized. How would they
coordinate? They might need to set up some kind of market relationship
with an economy and prices so that the preferences of all are exposed and
the most effective use of resources can be found.

The leader-follower model leads to a hierarchical system, with information
flowing up and commands flowing down.

In our world we tend to see hierarchical systems used for relatively
small scale activities like business firms, while decentralized systems
are used at the larger scale.

It's possible that with future technologies, the relative advantages of
one or the other system will shift.

In the longer run, I suspect that individuals will become hierarchical,
with many subsystems and sub-selves which all work together to accomplish
the individual's goals. There will be a blurring of the lines between
a set of separate entities working closely in a collective endeavor,
and a single entity who has many parts working together.

There may also be more loosely structured collectives which have some
of the properties of separate individuals but can also be thought of as
a single person.

> In nomadic tribal cultures leaders generally have the same
> material possessions as followers and do the same sorts of work as far as
> gathering and hunting food. Thus, there would be less reason for a follower
> to resent his or her role as follower than in a more complex culture where
> the leader has a better house, better clothes, etc.

In my generalizations of these concepts, I wouldn't assume that a leader
would necessarily have better goods than the others.

> In the hypothetical planet colonizing expedition, would the people
> engineered to be followers resent the sort of roles they'd been genetically
> assigned to?

This is an empirical question which would depend on the details of their
mental structure. It could go either way depending on how much control the
genetic engineers had and what their goals are.

> In a civilization rich with the fruits of nanotechnology, would leaders
> enjoy any special privileges? If the option existed for a person who had
> been born and educated to be a follower to be re-engineered into a leader,
> would many followers choose this option? What of independent thinkers?
> Would they want to change? Would followers and/or leaders have any
> incentive to become independent thinkers?

Just as we have a system today where hierarchically structured firms
compete on an equal footing in a marketplace, we may continue to have
a mix of leader/follower and independent roles for individuals in
the future.

> To what extent do people living at this very moment have the ability to
> change from followers to independent thinkers? How about the other way
> around? From independent thinkers to followers? What incentives are there
> to change from one to the other?

I don't think one is inherently better than the other. I explicitly
reject the simplistic moral view that says that independence is better
than taking on a supporting role in a larger organizational structure.

Both forms of social organizations are tools. The tool must fit the job.
Which one is best will depend on circumstances.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:13:50 MDT