We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Myers Briggs Personality and Evolution of Leadership

16 MBTI personality types roughly correspond to different breeds of self domesticated human primates. Humans evolved to travel and feel comfortable in packs of 150-250. How has leadership among them evolved to the present day and what does it mean for the future of democracy?

Recently, I rather optimistically touched upon how direct democratic structures can emerge in the 21st century. One article covered the concept of a "virtual polis" that political scientist Robert Dahl brainstormed will be possible once communication technology advances enough (he wrote in the late 1980s). This polis will allow a randomly drawn jury duty type community of people to co-legislate in political units regardless of how large the population of the unit is. The other article touched upon possible groupings of people (the concept of "rogue NGOs" and some rogue think tanks) which may help organize the first virtual polis experiments and provide the organizing cadres, human talent, funding, and technological infrastructure.

Now it is time to take a more cynical look and list a few key problems with democracy in general so we can approach direct democratic architecture construction with the right tools in the future. Democratization isn't going away and such well rounded discussion is especially key in very large unwieldy states like China and India. China will first democratize the 80 million plus ruling party apparatus before moving on to allow pluralism in the general population (there are more Christians living in China than in USA, so if another large opposition party ever arises its characteristics may appear rather surprising to outside Western observers). India will have to deal with democratization at the lowest level that it currently lacks (the world's so called biggest democracy currently resembles Britain in late 19th century in terms of democracy for elites only).

The first major problem of course is that although democracy of 1 man 1 vote may exist, it does not provide results due to incredibly disproportionate amount of resources available to these men and women. A good analogy is voting within a large corporation where 1 man 1 vote obviously fails due to different number of shares per shareholder.

The second problem directly relates to the first in that the disproportionate resources allow advanced propaganda techniques to sway the 20% of population that is very suggestible, 60% of population that is semi-suggestible, and even parts of the 20% of population that is relatively immune to suggestion. It doesn't help that 80% of population is psychologically prone to status quo mentality, making the programming task all the easier.

everybody got a cutesy nickname
These two will need to be tackled head on without too many radical arbitrary solutions (like only giving college graduates the right to vote as well as professions critical to societal functioning like teachers, soldiers, social workers, police, engineers, medical personnel, etc).

The third problem is biological and is root cause of the first problem and the topic of present article. Human herds have, are, and will continue to be led by coalitions of aggressive, novelty seeking alpha males/females who drag the rest of the population behind them. Let's take a brief look at evolution of these leadership dynamics.

In simpler pre-agricultural world, detail oriented sensory experience was a lot more important than intuition. There are even theories that modern tight communication between left and right side of the brain is a relatively recent thing. Hunter gatherers lived in the moment and the Myers Briggs personality that fits them best is ESTP. Besides fitting the modern role of a soldier, ESTPs fit into caveman/tribal world neatly:

1) Heavy parietal lobe dominance for rapidly grasping and understanding tool use

2) Heavy extraversion to go outwards towards the world of food, prey, and mates and to be energized through heavy social interaction.

3) Right hemisphere dominance to rapidly switch attention from one spot to another to look out for danger and food/mating opportunities.

We can relatively safely say this is the oldest breed among us. Even emotionality of ESFPs and ESFJs is a more recent development during transition to less aggressive and more providing mating selection. Early social leadership thus probably had ESTPs use bursts of energy (which today would unfortunately be labeled by some silly "disorder" such as bipolar, borderline, manic, hypomanic, etc). The ESTP would gesticulate to others excitedly and then be the first one of the pack into the jungle. Although this breed would be on the cutting edge of the pack, the actual day to day organizing, consolidating, and leading of the pack would fall to more left hemisphere dominant and organized ESTJs. Development of left hemisphere comes with age, strong alpha parental role modeling, and discipline. Although all human babies are born with very powerful right hemisphere perception (P of 100) to learn as much as possible, inevitably the pack splits into roughly 50/50 left and right dominance.

So the pre-agricultural situation had ESTPs serve as a sort of Lewis and Clark/Columbus explorers who provided leadership by exploring brand new terrain while ESTJs provided leadership by consolidating the newly discovered terrain and marshalling the human resources of the pack to settle in it.

When a number of primate packs joined forces to engage in large scale warfare, this usually occurred when a super alpha emerged from one of the packs who provided leadership to alphas of other packs. In theory one could have a pack consisting of 150-250 alpha male leaders temporarily led in an alliance. We see examples of such tribal gatherings well into the modern times. It is hard to say whether ESTJs or ESTPs provided the most super alphas due to the complexity of such an alliance. Although it is possible that left handed/ambidextrous primates existed even back then as a sort of "bridging leaders" between alphas with left and right brain dominance.

When agriculture made human societies complex and allowed large scale primate domestication and enslavement, intuition became increasingly super important. Thus the best warriors and hunters and consolidators remained ESTPs and ESTJs but further up the hierarchy, ENTPs and ENTJs took over the leadership role. Once again, ENTPs explored new terrain, only this time in the arena of primate domestication and infrastructure development. Once new theoretical ground was broken, ENTJs led others to consolidate and make use of it. Lets use the example of Lewis and Clark again, only this time in the role of ENTPs. Here's an illustration. In earlier "caveman times", ESTPs would lead the pack of men to a new river when chasing after an animal and begin to cross the river without waiting while ESTJs would stop and figure out a way for everybody to systematically cross that river and then return to the river later as needed. As society transitions to post-nomadic exploitation farming society, we see a long line of ESTJ consolidators (who would now send out ESTP brothers to the frontier to defend it rather than be led by them) gradually father more and more ENTJs and ENTPs. The ENTPs would go forth and get packs of alphas excited about building or constructing something new like a large irrigation canal, a tall wall, a dam, etc. Like Lewis and Clark they would often be the restless early settlers of a new area and marshal ESTPs to scout it, measure it, and then proceed to device schemes for new construction. The ENTJs and their ESTJ right hand men would then undertake the boring task to fully develop and build the area to its full potential, defend it, expand it, etc.

Around this time civilization becomes complex enough that some leisure time develops at leadership level and we start seeing more and more introverts appear on the scene.

You've guessed where this is headed.

21st century society is so complex now that previous leadership types (organized as loose, often openly antagonistic, alpha mafia clans if you look at it crudely) cannot fully run it anymore. Just as at some point we had an uneasy transition from ESTP explorer led packs to ENTP explorer led packs, INTPs are the best explorers of where society should be heading in terms of technology, interpersonal relations, etc. INTJs are the consolidators of their thought. Most macro level problems in the world today can be attributed to ENTJs remaining firmly in charge and INTPs being sidelined. At some point in the ancient world, ENTJs and ENTPs have figured out a way to allow ESTPs and ESTJs to remain as warrior figureheads (since detail orientation of parietal lobe makes their weapon ability second to none) while pulling the strings behind the scenes and then in the open. We're now reaching a point where INTPs and INTJs and various other introverts are doing the same to their extraverted excitable outward grasping primate cousins. Amount of introverts in the global herd has now risen to 30% in the Western world (along with rising corresponding propaganda!) and we even see stranger new breeds come on the scene every day. The whole autism phenomenon may be a new stage in evolution to navigate complex new technologies.

Intuition is a simple symbol manipulating system in the brain. Thus up to 6% of the herd today is often classified as "crazy" since ENTJs and ENTPs rapidly arrange data in new novel ways and then extrovertedly (and often excitedly!) act upon it. INTPs and INTJs have the same thing going on, only their lack acting on it makes them appear tame. At some point in the 21st century, INTPs will be able to become more extroverted using advanced pharmacology, genetics, cybernetics and then political power will swing in their favor for the first time. It will be an interesting development to watch as former ENTP explorers get publicly sidelined and outmaneuvered for the first time.

However, this transition will not be an easy one in a world of accelerating trends, when old timers hold on to their political posts for decades at a time in many parts of the world. Builders of direct democratic structures will have to take seriously into account biological inequality due to neural/brain diversity. As a starting point we will require a minimum of heavily modified proportional representation democracy as was suggested earlier to take into account biological herd pluralism. Then, every one of the 4 major Myers-Briggs groupings  (SJs, SPs, NFs, NTs) can have a political party where they will feel comfortable. Coalition can be forced upon proportional representation by constitutional limits on how much a party is represented in parliament (say a maximum ceiling of 40% representation always forcing a coalition government). There are many other tweaks that are possible. Even a sort of "psychological assembly line" is possible when it comes to crafting social policy in working groups by utilizing the talents of each breed.

Mind you, this is a starting point since even the party system has a host of its own problems as noted by one famous North African theorist:

"The existence of many parties intensifies the struggle for power, and this results in the neglect of any achievements for the people and of any socially beneficial plans. Such actions are presented as a justification to undermine the position of the ruling party so that an opposing party can replace it. The parties very seldom resort to arms in their struggle but, rather, denounce and denigrate the actions of each other. This is a battle which is inevitably waged at the expense of the higher, vital interests of the society. Some, if not all, of those higher interests will fall prey to the struggle for power between instruments of government, for the destruction of those interests supports the opposition in their argument against the ruling party or parties. In order to rule, the opposition party has to defeat the existing instrument of government."

We'll of course return to tackle the above issues. It may be time to start conceptualizing democracy as less of one giant hammer but a collection of scalpels working together.

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  1. Keep in mind that things get more complicated when you switch over to introversion. INTP's dominant mode is actually judging, where it ruthlessly analyzes theoretical concepts. INTJ's dominant mode is perceiving, where it envisions novel holistic (though not airtight) theoretical concepts.

  2. Hello Pavel - I like your blog. You have some interesting ideas. I do not agree with them all, but I think they are worth considering. Are you INTP?

  3. Thanks David! No, I'm ENFP/ENTP hybrid. I wouldn't write TOO blatantly self-aggrandizing article like that. :) I think the Internet pretty much belongs to INTJs/INTPs though. In terms of being active online (forums and such) they appear/are likely to be overly represented compared to their actual population.

  4. Perhaps its ego, by dont count out Entps yet, I still see plenty of Entps still leading the front in the I.T. industry. I agree that as an Entp, I have a knack for swaying leadership, but won't we always have a leader? If Entps lead the leaders I mean?