We’re working our way through Corbyn and many of his supporters not being on board with representative democracy [0]. Makes it kind of tricky to work with the PLP [1]. The end-game is probably a split where you get a representative democracy party and another party based more on Momentum-style direct democracy [2]. One is likely to be a lot more effective than the other at getting things done [3].

[0] representative democracy: you elect a representative and they have autonomy once they are elected, check out Burke etc. So to say that the PLP rebels are acting against the ideals of representative democracy doesn’t really make much sense.

[1] PLP: they tend to be on board with representative democracy since that’s the water they swim in

[2] representative democracy => oligarchy. direct democracy => cults of personality and mob rule. Pays your money and takes your choice.

[3] I’ll bet my money on whichever one is aligned more effectively with the way power works in the UK political system. Which is…

The Glass Bead Game

I read The Glass Bead Game¬†more than half my life ago. It’s about a monastery where the monks are devotees of the aforementioned game, which brings all artistic and scientific endeavour together in a single unified form.

I didn’t like it at the time, and I don’t like it now. I am, at least, clearer on why I don’t like it now, for which I am sure Joseph Knecht would give thanks.

The idea that it is somehow virtuous, somehow positive, to unify diverse fields of endeavour – I don’t buy it.

I have spent much of my working life trying to get people to work more effectively together when tackling problems with a significant analytical content, but a key part of this has always been the acceptance of multiple, irreconcilable viewpoints.

And I love mathematics that makes deep connections between superficially unrelated fields, but maths also has numerous contenders for how one should think about its very foundations (category theory, set theory etc).

“The Glass Bead Game” has the underlying assumption that some kind of global unification of human endeavour is intrinsically a Good Thing. Why would anyone think that, unless difference makes them uncomfortable?

Conway’s Law’s_law

“organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structure¬†of these organizations”

A more generalised statement of Conway’s Law is:

“technological systems and political systems mirror each other”


1) If you try to change the deep structure of technological systems, this will have major political implications. Don’t assume that you can put an information bus or microservices in place as a purely technological fix. The more effective any such change will be, the more of the current political landscape you will be invalidating.

2) More generally, you can’t fix primarily political problems by technological means. If you are getting too far ahead of the political change you wish to effect, you will be pulled back, no matter how good the technology is.

3) You can’t fix primarily technological problems by political means: you can’t make up for the lack of fundamental technology by building coalitions, no matter how well-intentioned everyone is.