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Missive #262

“Great book. Not a great novel. But rather a highly thought provoking Socratic dialogue with an agenda to introduce the reader to evidence based, experimentally derived public policy creation and the behavioral engineering world view.

It’s important to remember, the book was first published in 1948. So yes, much of it is dated. But it’s brash, atheistic, rational, highly pragmatic, dialectical approach would be ahead of its time if it were written in 2019.

Skinner is perhaps the most misunderstood and wrongly maligned Psychologist ever. But in the age of internet based, algorithmic behavioral tracking, behavioral forecasting and behavioral modification, ignore Skinner at your own peril.

As our economy and culture at large become increasingly informational, Skinner’s paradigm becomes all the more relevant.

And as AI and other forms of automation evolve, and continue to make human labor less necessary, than we may find ourselves having a second or third look at the types of policies and engineered environments Skinner proposes in this book.

Any literal interpretation or implementation of the ideas in Walden Two would be absurd in 2019. But the pragmatic methodology Skinner expounds deserves serious consideration, particularly after the disastrous spectacle of political failure we endured in 2018.

The era of governance via know it all ‘genius’ alpha male strongmen who govern via guts and nuts needs to die.

We clearly need a rational, scientific, less hierarchical, more level and more inclusive approach to government.

Walden Two is a valuable conversational aperitif that edges us in the direction of the latter, and protects us from the last drowning, desperate gasp of the former.

Four Stars (not five) because it’s a comically bad book in many regards. But it’s redeeming features, not to mention its audacity and originality far out pace it’s obvious shortcomings.” — Customer review @ goodreads.com

A couple of quotes.

It is now widely recognized that great changes must be made in the American way of life. Not only can we not face the rest of the world while consuming and polluting as we do, we cannot for long face ourselves while acknowledging the violence and chaos in which we live. The choice is clear: either we do nothing and allow a miserable and probably catastrophic future to overtake us, or we use our knowledge about human behavior to create a social environment in which we shall live productive and creative lives and do so without jeopardizing the chances that those who follow us will be able to do the same. Something like a Walden Two would not be a bad start.
January, 1976

Is a national election really an important issue? Does it really matter very much who wins? The platforms of the two parties are carefully made as much alike as possible, and when the election is over we’re all advised to accept the result like good sports. Only a few voters go on caring very much after a week or two. The rest know there’s no real threat. Things will go on pretty much the same. Elections are sometimes turned by a few million voters who can’t make up their minds until election day. It can’t be much of an issue if that’s the case.


Miss Havisham is a character in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. A wealthy woman, she was jilted and swindled on her wedding day. From that day on she has allowed nothing to change. The wedding feast sits there, liquids evaporated, silverware corroded, cakes and food rotted; overrun with vermin and spider webs. She wears still her wedding dress, filthy and torn. The Day preserved, decayed and monstrous. Time and events move on around her but her past is her present and her pitiless future.

Will this be the West in fifty years? Surrounded by decay and filth but still clinging its past? Shouting about its ever-so-valuable values, ranting on about the Rules-Based International Order, boasting it’s the best at this and the most at that, issuing judgments on the bad behavior of the others, sanctioning non-believers, bathed in its media feedback loop. Still the highest GDP in USD! (Now Big Mac Cricketburgers are $1000 a pop, there are lots of dollars in every pocket!)

But nobody in the rest of the world cares. They’ve moved on. No tourist visits the moldering house and its unhinged inhabitants. They prefer cruising the high speed railroad from Cape Town to Beijing with a side trip to Baikal. Who wants to be robbed in the shoot-up galleries of Amsterdam, the tent cities of New York, the machete gangs of London? If it’s Tuesday and riots, it must be Paris. Young Harvard graduates pass out in their slums and dream of becoming a toilet cleaner in Omsk Airport – full benefits, you know. Plus dental. And you can afford a small apartment on your pay.

Is this where the West is heading? It gave away its manufacturing, its economies are financial prestidigitation and rent-seeking. It scores at the bottom of the Edelman Trust Index. (How can an electoral democracy function when people doubt the integrity of elections and believe that their politicians and judges are bought? Without trust, what is left?) Will the West decay into a future that’s all past and no future? A putrefying wedding cake?

After the failed wars, the rest don’t fear the West, they don’t respect it – if they ever did – and they don’t trust it. Who knew that Niger would lead the way and call the bluff? There are other more attractive and – most importantly – more successful examples to follow. Who cares about Miss Havisham and her mausoleum of the past?


Of course this is just one possible future out of many – the Havisham future is not inevitable. Nothing is determined, the West can change. It still has plenty of resources and talent. Down can become up. But I don’t see much around me to suggest that the trend will be reversed. It’s too big a job for one leader or group of leaders. Falling down is always easier than getting up again. But, unless the failing West brings the whole thing down, I think the Miss Havisham future is the one to bet on. — Posted by Larry C Johnson

Tomorrow I go to Sierra Vista again for my annual medical checkup at the VA clinic. I need to drop Erik off prior to that for his bath and then hope he is ready when I’m through with the VA appointment. Need to do a shopping trip to Wal*Mart also while in town so it will all use up a lot of the day. Then on Wednesday I go back to the dentist for him to take out the stitches and fit the temporary dental bridge. I’m hoping this will not be a painful procedure.

2 thoughts on “Missive #262”

  1. gee, I hope it’s not a painful dental
    procedure for you. I always try to get strong pain pills so I have them if needed.Mary

    1. I’m not expecting it to be nearly as painful as the extractions were although that pain came after the Novacain wore off. I didn’t need many pain pills from that so I think it will go well – maybe.

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