1.2 Core concepts of Geopolitics and Cognition

Control over one’s destiny

The core concept of cognitive geopolitics [2] pertain to the ability to influence and shape your destiny. You can either be a tool in the hands of others or a self-deciding and self-steering individual who takes control of its destiny and shapes its own living environment. A number of core concepts are listed below.

Core concepts of cognitive geopolitics
Concept Definition
Agency The capacity to be the source of self-selected behavior. Disempowerment removes control over the ultimate benefits of behavior to third parties. Agency is the most important geopolitical resource because it gives value to anything that is relevant to self-selected behavior.
Authority The capacity to create, maintain, or influence the living environment (of self or other agents).
[Internalized Authority] The capacity to create and maintain one’s own living conditions
[External authority] The capacity to create, maintain, or influence the living conditions of others, in particular of those who demand it and accept it freely, but also of those who resist it inadequately
Self-empowerment The process of internalizing authority (becoming more agentic)
Disempowerment The process of externalizing authority (becoming less agentic)
Learned helplessness A state-of-mind in which one has learned to believe in the pointlessness of one’s own agency. It is the slave state-of-mind.
Pathological normality Seemingly symptomless and near perfect adaptation to a deeply suboptimal living environment, characterized by a suppressed humanity, an illusion of individuality, conformity towards uniformity and lack of freedom.
Self-actualization Advanced stages of self-empowerment, characterized by a very good grasp on reality, personal autonomy, and internalized authority. Self-actualization is a sign of optimal agency
[Cognition] The (perceptual, learning, decision, and execution) processes that lead to the activation, selection, and execution of behavior at all possible time-scales.
Intelligence A measure of the effectivity of closed-world strategies. Knowing how to act in controlled closed-world situations (typically associated with left-hemispheric strengths)
Understanding A measure of the effectivity of open-world strategies. Knowing how and why to act in uncontrolled/uncontrollable open-world situations (typically associated with right-hemispheric strengths)
Shallow understanding Cognition based on norms, rules, procedures, examples, instances, habits, and stereotypes, typically derived from some sort of external authority. Only reliable in closed environments where the rules, procedures, etc, are actually effective.
Deep understanding Experience-based cognition leading to the ability to generalize knowledge and experience to novel situations. Typically based on the understanding resulting from experiential and/or playful sampling of a wide variety of real-world dynamics. Allows co-creation
co-creation the ability to work with the inherent dynamics of the world instead of suppressing and controlling it). Co-creation allows for pervasive optimization.

Two routes to empowerment

This table compares two routes to empowerment: either via s[elf-empowerment] or via the disempowerment of others.

Absolute and relative empowerment
Absolute empowerment Relative empowerment
Definition All self-development activities Empowerment through preventing or stultifying self-empowerment in others
Result Increased competence in all aspects of own life Decreased or capped competence in some of all aspects of the lives of others.
Active actors Self-empowering individual Forced education, military, organized religions, advertisement agencies, mainstream media
Passive actors Self-empowered parents, student centered teachers and coaches, supportive friends Disempowered individuals

Core Concepts of Authoritarianism and Libertarianism

Note that the terms authoritarianism, authoritarians, libertarianism and libertarians in the website (unless explicitly stated) refer in the first place to psychological mind-states. Authoritarian and libertarian modes of thought differ in whether or not authority has been internalized in a particular situation. So an authoritarian is someone in a authoritarian state-of-mind. And the same holds for a libertarian.

People shift in and out authoritarian and libertarian modes as function of the complexity of the current living environment. However a shallow understanding of the world does not provide a basis to internalize authority and leads to an authoritarian personality. So an authoritarian is either someone in an authoritarian mind-state or someone with an authoritarian personality. The context should disambiguate.

Core concepts of authoritarianism
Concept Definition
[Authoritarian mode of thought] A mindset associated with an urge to reduce the complexity of the world through for example intolerance to difference and authority support
[Libertarian mode of thought] A mindset in which somewhat more societal or world complexity can be dealt with through heightened cognition and sharpened curiosity.
[Authoritarian personality] A state of arrested or incomplete intellectual development defined by a shallow understanding of the world resulting in a preference for a less complex world apparent from a preference for uniformity and central or group authority in combination with authority derived beliefs, goals, and life-strategies
[Libertarian personality] A state of more advanced intellectual development, defined by a deeper and more integrated understanding of the world resulting in the ability to take the responsibility for pervasive optimization of the living environment, through a self-validated and consistent belief-base and self-selected life-goals and -strategies
Dependent thought A form of thought aimed at norm compliance and voluntary support of authorities. Leads to increasing uniformity and disregard of (top-)quality. An analysis of to whom the support is directed, especially when challenged, will reveal someone’s true authorities.
Independent thought A form of reality-based thought aimed at producing self-intended result. Independent thought leads to the diversity associated with pervasive — local — optimization.
Normative threats Threats to norms, definitions of “us” and “them” and the definitions of “oneness” and “sameness” that authoritarians need to base their behavior and opinions on. The treats typically involve questioned or questionable authorities, disrespect for leaders or leaders unworthy of respect, and lack of conformity in group values, norms and beliefs.
Ingroup People who adhere to the same norms and the same values systems as a particular authoritarian and who are therefore predictable and no threat to feelings of agentic inadequacy
Outgroup People who are thought to adhere to different norms or a different value systems – from the viewpoint of a particular authoritarian – and who are therefore unpredictable and a threat to feelings of agentic adequacy
Authoritarian dynamic “Intolerance = authoritarianism x threat.” The authoritarian dynamic is the main driver behind the separation of society (by authoritarians) in ingroups (to be loyal to) and outgroups (to be intolerant to or even to be disgusted by and hated).
Authoritarian conscience Norm adherences and support of authority
[Libertarian conscience] A brake on initiating or continuing behavior that might hinder or harm others
Cognitive (in)capacity A measure of the (in)ability to deal with one’s own (social) environment
Pathological normality Absence of symptoms of conflict through total submission and adaptation to an unhealthy reality.
Thought policing Authoritarians have problems with thoughts that do not comply with their own normative system and in particular with the moral values of ingroup loyalty, authority respect, and purity & sanctity. They engage in voluntary thought policing strategies to keep the complexity of the world within (for them) acceptable) bounds.

Authoritarian and Libertarian Morals

Authoritarians and libertarians differ essentially and predictably in the course of action that they endorse and abhor on moral grounds.

Authoritarian and libertarian morals
Good Bad
Authoritarian Support of authorities in all their efforts. Subtle self-imposed limits on exploration and self-expression. In times of fear: Actively curtailing individual autonomy; Suppression of diversity; Norm compliant behavior Norm violating behavior. Challenging, questioning, or ignoring authorities. In times of fear: increasing individual autonomy and diversity; Independence of thought, opinions, and activities. Freedom of self-initiated activities; Unsupported authorities.
Libertarian Increasing individual autonomy and diversity; Independence of thought, opinions, and activities. Freedom of self-initiated activities. Freedom from oppressive authority. Actively curtailing individual autonomy; Suppression of diversity; Norm compliant behavior with adverse consequences

Since authoritarians (especially in times of fear) focus on everything that they think may keep or return world complexity within manageable bounds. They consider any seed of increased (or perpetuated) complexity as something to be controlled and suppressed at any cost. This voluntary behavior boils down to thought policing. Some example of this are below.

Thought policing strategies
Activity Strategy
Deriding uncomfortable thoughts The active suppression of any thoughts, irrespective their support in facts or logic that challenge the authoritativeness of authorities. Typically by using at some moment the conspiracy label.
Propaganda and self-censorship in the media As individually felt responsibility, fearful authoritarian journalists curtail free-thought by ignoring any information that might put their authorities into a bad light (self-censorship) and instead focusing on all types of information that lead to more uniform thought (propaganda).
Outgroup membership suppression Ruthless state-sanctioned repression of anyone who confronts the (fearful) authoritarian with his/her inadequacy to cope. For example Obama’s NDAA 2012 singing of indefinite detention without charge or trial into law for anyone suspected (by authoritarians) or terrorism. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, the Argentinian Junta, etcetera allowed themselves similar privileges and later acted on it.
Socialization in education Authoritarian teachers see their role according to authoritarian child rearing qualities. They help to train their students to behave in a (in their eyes) acceptable way.
Wars on victimless crimes authoritarians have no difficulty in punishing victimless crimes such as recreational drug-use or non-standard (but fully consensual) sexual practices. The distaste they feel is based on some violation of their morals and it is enough incarcerate “moral violators” for years.
Bureaucracy Bureaucracy is a pathological state of human organization, characterized by intelligence without understanding. Bureaucracy stems from the desperately embraced authoritarian illusion that human organizations can be approached as closed systems to be fully described in rational and formal terms. This results in the mass destruction of the available competence and commitment.
Spying on the population To curtail the self-initiative and self-empowerment authoritarian leaders set-up a elaborate systems to spy on the population. Ideally this leads to models or each and any member or society that can be used to predict their danger to an ordered society.

Core Concepts of “Agentic Cognition”

{Section under development}

“Agentic cognition” is a term introduced in this website. It refers to the cognitive core processes that directly relate to maintaining agency and viability.

Agentic cognition
Concept Definition
[Brain] The most energy demanding organ of the human body (20% of total energy), with a single purpose: to come up with strategies to improve and maintain viability. Health (see below) is the key outcome of a well functioning brain.
[Viability] Distance to death. A healthy and safe agent is far from death in the sense that it has many behavioral options that allow it to remain alive and healthy. Low viability entails that it has few or no behavioral options to remain alive or health
[Health (WHO, 1948) ] “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”
[Health (Shepherd 2013)] “Health is existing in an environment affording an individual the potential to adapt and optimize physical, psychological, and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
[Cognition for control]
[Cognition for pervasive optimization]
[Affordances] Action possibilities, perceivable by and agent, provided by an environment (including the agent)
[Complexity of action selection]
Key property Left hemispheric strength Right hemispheric strengths
[Purpose of thought ] To restore or maintain a feeling of agentic adequacy The pervasive optimization of all aspects of life.
Scope Closed worlds created and maintained by some authority (either an external authority or the right hemisphere) Open, self-maintained and co-created worlds

  1. On October 1st, 2013, searching for “cognitive geopolitics” gave 16 Google-hits. Mostly pertaining to between-state level politics and with a very narrow (rationalist) notion of cognition particularly focused on state-leaders.  ↩