Smarter animals recognize themself in a mirror. Others see their reflection and act like its another animal. They hide their food, get ready for a fight, or run away for example.
Monkeys are smart enough to act based on where others are looking. They value 1 of 2 boxes higher if a person appears to value it, and more often choose to open that box first.
Compared to animals, being a conformist (copying what others do) is a sign of intelligence. If you drive onto a new road, before you see a speed limit sign, you tend to drive the same speed as everyone else. But conformism is just a little better than "trial and error" strategy.
In general, someone is smarter if they look deeper into someone watching someone watching someone... to some depth. Humans sometimes do experiments of watching a monkey choose 1 of 2 boxes based on the Monkey watching a Human watch the boxes. Through recordings and writing about such experiments, I am watching that Human watch the Monkey, and so on. If you think my writing here is interesting and continue to read it, you are watching me watch those things, so you are at a deep level of watching.
Its not just about how deep you watch the watchers. Its about what you learn from it. Why are the others watching eachother? Why are you watching them? If you watch just because I said smarter people do that, then you're acting at the level of conformism, just a little above "trial and error", but if you learn interesting things from watching the watchers, then that's a sign of intelligence.
This is about understanding how others' minds work and watching others understand the minds of those they watch. Instead of only understanding that Monkeys watch what others look at and act based on that, we should figure out how Monkey minds work, and we should figure out how Human minds work that makes them want to figure out how Monkey minds work. But we can't assume those Humans wanted to know how Monkey minds work. They may have been doing research because it pays the bills and only want to demonstrate what behavior Monkeys have.
The behavior of watching the watchers is what holds Human society together. We predict what others will do, assuming they make similar predictions, and so on. Money has value because of our prediction that others think money has value. We go to work because we predict others will continue going to work, because if they didn't then the employer would be unable to pay. We ignore laws that we don't agree with if we predict most other people also ignore those laws.
We avoid trying to change the world in big ways because we predict other people will not go along with it. But why do we predict those other people won't go along with it? It's the same reason we don't try to change the world. It only works if enough people try at the same time, but most of those people, at any one time, have given up, and that's a reason for others to give up before they start.
Lets think of a Human mind as many different ways of thinking all connected to eachother, like a definition of ethics, strategies, preferences, knowledge, way of organizing memory, content of memory, goals, way of understanding how others think and predicting them, intuition of how spiritual things feel and how to use them, what was recently thought about, and all other ways to divide a mind into parts. Everyone has many common mind parts but some parts are unique to each person. We interact with eachother mostly by making predictions about the common parts of others' minds. Our friends are people who have more mind parts in common with us or who have mind parts we want to understand through interaction with the friend. When we interact with others, we form mental models of their mind, and if we like how it works we use it as new parts of our own mind, often replacing our old ways of thinking or keeping both around to see which works best or use each at different times depending on what works best.
A "mind part" is an advanced kind of "meme", a way of thinking, or thinking about thinking, instead of only a thought or idea. I am expanding the definition of "meme" to include parts of minds, how intelligence works, people making predictions of what others will predict, and anything else that can change about how we think. An artificial intelligence (AI) or a Human mind is the combination of many memes that operate together in an intelligent way.
In the rest of this writing, its important to understand the expanded definition of "meme".http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
A meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. While genes transmit biological information, memes are said to transmit ideas and belief information.
A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.
Many proposals for improving the world have been ignored because the author did not understand how memes flow through society.
Most peoples' minds are made of memes that rarely change. For example, they may think it is only possible for the 2 most popular political parties to win any election for the next 20 years, therefore when they receive a meme about how much better the world would be if some other political party won and therefore more people would vote for that party, instead the meme receiver temporarily replaces the "who wins elections" meme with the new meme, checks it against the other memes currently active in their mind, and concludes that most others will not vote for the other political party because others expect the first 2 parties to win.
Most people only think ahead as far as replacing a few memes temporarily, checking the results against their currently active memes, and acting based on if that small change is a short-term improvement and does not contradict the other memes.
Its an example of a "greedy algorithm", one that only looks around for small possible changes and chooses the best of those, and repeats until it finds a "local maximum".
What is a "local maximum"? Don't stop reading yet. This meme may already be too far from your current set of active memes, but it will make sense soon. If you find yourself stuck on an island which has just enough food to keep you alive for the rest of your life, that would be a local maximum. If you think like most people, the analogy would be to stay on that island instead of risking drowning in the ocean to get to a higher value than the "local maximum" of the island. This is only an example to explain what "local maximum" is. Most people would build a boat and risk it, but most people get stuck at local maximums that are more complex than being stuck on an island.
We are stuck on the local maximums of 2 political parties and most people voting against the one they dislike the most. We are stuck at the local maximum of corporations and money and political power being how the world is organized. We are stuck at the local maximum of not trying to change the world because we predict most others will not go along with our plans even if they are better than how the world works now. Many people will disagree on which things we're stuck on and which we should keep, but most of us can agree we are stuck at many local maximums.
Smarter animals recognize themself in a mirror. Monkeys act based on where others are looking. Humans watch the watchers enough that society improves but gets stuck at local maximums. Smarter Humans watch the Human species getting stuck at local maximums and find ways to get unstuck and find higher value for everyone on average.
Many groups have started talking about how they want the world to work, changes so big that we know of no sequence of local maximums from here to there. For example, the Zeitgeist Movement ( http://thezeitgeistmovement.com
) advocates a more scientific way of distributing resources than letting corporations and political power control it. If you agree with their goals is not important. They are an example of a way the world could be that was not thought of through a sequence of local maximums. The way they chose their goals is unusual, but the way they work toward their goals is very similar to how everyone else thinks. They try to get more members who think like them, and when they have enough members they would redesign the world as they planned. They also build small demonstrations. Their plan may work, but a more efficient plan would be to find the cause of the local maximum way most people think, because that way of thinking is the reason most people do not try to change the world.
The problem is not that people don't think ahead. The problem is when they think ahead they are using today's memes. Predicting what memes will be popular years from now is not hard if you understand how memes flow through society.
To understand how memes flow through society, you first need to think about the fact that memes flow through society. Most people rarely think about that.
Next you make predictions about how other people will think about memes flowing through society.
You continue making predictions of others' predictions, watching the watchers, until you understand why paradigm-shifts happen. For example, what was the creator of Bitcoin (a decentralized open-source economy) thinking when he decided to build a complex software and try to convince people to use numbers on a screen as money? What made him think it would work? It was the fact that its total money supply expands from nothing to millions of bitcoins, and those who get in early tend to make more money on their investment, so at any one time buying bitcoins is a local maximum. The creator of Bitcoin understood that society moves toward local maximums, so he designed continuous sequence of local maximums that would suck value out of dollars and put it into bitcoins, and it worked.
Bitcoin is 1 of many paradigm-shifts happening today. Some of the smartest people have noticed that there are ways to change the world without spending any money and with a small team of people.
A mind is the combination of many memes. Most people have much difficulty temporarily replacing more than a few memes at a time. They fall back to their old patterns of thinking. They have difficulty thinking of different ways the world could work because they can only think of a few changes at a time. That is going to change quickly as people start thinking about the idea of memes (including the more advanced parts of how a mind works) and start making predictions based on other peoples' predictions of memes.
The days of brute force strategy controlling the world are nearly over. Those who understand how memes flow through society are the new world leaders, not ruling through threats and force, but influencing through deep understanding of how society works and what technology they can build to change its path. The rich and politically powerful elite will see this as the biggest threat they've ever known, but despite their immediate ability to destroy us all, they are only pawns in a game now controlled by deeper levels of thinking. To change the world, I have no use for weapons or threats or money or political power. The pen is mightier than the sword, especially when it leads to technology that changes how people interact with eachother. There is nothing more powerful on this planet than an understanding of how people think. Everything the elite have, somebody knows how to obsolete it and may be waiting for certain other needed memes to start the process of changing the path of society to do that. Things are not what they appear to be anymore. Those who appear to have power often have very little, and those who build certain kinds of socially organizing technology may appear to have very little power but actually choose the path of the Human species by their choices of what features to include in their technology.
We have no reason to overthrow governments, because that would mean we are not already in control. It may appear we're not because most of us haven't yet realized this and used it. Those who lack power feel the need to make threats, but those with real power simply make things happen.
Lets use these new abilities to work toward a global decentralized democracy, toward improving the Human species and all life forms, solving the world's biggest problems, and building a new society where everyone understands enough about how others think to change the world.
This is a Meta Paradigm Shift, a change in the way paradigm-shifts work, and it will expand into meta of meta without limit. As more people start to understand this, the world will change exponentially faster. Ray Kurzweil and many others talk about a "technology singularity", where technology advances far enough to build more technology and accelerates exponentially. That's great, but how we advance society is a choice. We are singularity if we want to be, and we are in control of our future.