Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Tragedy of Bureaucratic Thinking

"In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely." ~Jerry Pournelle, Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy
Ever since the dawn of civilization, bureaucratic minds have sought to reduce esoteric theory, insight, and wisdom into a simple set of rules that a modestly educated clerk could administer.

Rulers beginning with Hammurabi of Mesopotamia adopted this divinely inspired goal of reducing all high-minded guidance to a compact set of rules.

Alas, history, science, and modern mathematics have collectively revealed that such a goal is not divinely inspired, but devilishly impossible.

In biblical times, it was the Tribe of Levi who played the role of the bureaucrats who sought to reduce the esoteric wisdom of Torah (the word variously means "theory," "science," or "customary system of guidance") to a finite set (numbering 613 in this case) of rules.

This Magnanimous Legacy of the Levites (Levi Natan) came to be recognized by the esoteric theologians as a subtle mistake that was remarkably hard to explain. It's a (mathematical) mistake having to do with Chaos Theory, which reveals that rule-based systems are inherently chaotic (in the modern mathematical sense of the term).

The esoteric theologians noted this issue by creating the allegory of Leviathan (Levi Natan -- the Gift of the Levites -- but subvocalizing the (mis)leading N in Natan). Leviathan is characterized as an unbridled chaos monster.  Natan means Wonderful Gift.  Atan means banal gift.  Thanks a lot.

And that's what rulesets are. Unbridled sources of chaos.

It's a profound and unsettling insight, to be sure. But it's an essential one to appreciate. For if we wish to craft a graceful system of guidance, we have to do it properly, with properly chosen functions, and not by displacing those crucial functions with a simplistic set of rules.

In a word, rule-based systems are dysfunctional. They do not achieve the goal of a high-functioning guidance system.