My Blog List

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Selfish Optimization and Tyranny

There is a relationship between corruption and tyranny. And what it is is "selfish optimization". Selfish optimization is when a system is optimized for the owners or the governors. This usually results in dysfunction, stove pipes, mis-allocation of resources, and both legal corruption and illegal corruption. It is also a manifestation of Tyranny as defined by John Locke who referred to the use of power for "private, separate advantage." Many of our problems come from selfishly optimized systems that are constituted with poor quality governments.

I've seen a lot of this in my IT work, but it is also a problem in the world around us at every level. Requirements gathering is essentially about setting the boundaries of a system. It's goals (finish line), and the capabilities needed to reach those goals. Bad requirements result in bad systems, but bad systems are usually the result of requirements that are poorly optimized, resulting in poorly functioning systems.

Selfish optimization is enabled by; excessive hierarchy -- giving those at the top of a totem pole too much power; Misallocation of ownership (or power over) resources which leads to excessive power over those resources and feeds back into even more misallocation and dysfunction as those with power deal with the consequences of their earlier misallocations and folks are pushed out of the system or oppressed by it.

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