-- / --
Tangibles of wealth and status as a focus of envy
Lifestyle constraints of super-elites
Essential personal preoccupations of super-elites
Qualities of super-elites as human beings
Relationships of the super-elites and among them
Questions in sustaining the lifestyle of super-elites
Strategic styles and actions of super-elites
Strategic concerns of elites for the collective context
Systemic analogues of super-elites -- recognized otherwise
Hyper-wealth -- framing wealth and influence otherwise
Hyper-power characteristics of hyper-elite initiatives?
Mystification of elitism as offering global coherence?
Hyper-wealth as conjunction of information, insight and imagination?
Memorable representation of the dynamics of a hyper-wealth complex
Extraterrestrials as exemplars of the hyper-wealthy?
Tragic incompetence of the hyper-wealthy; "hyper-incompetence"?
There is an ever increasing number of those termed "ultra-high net worth individuals" (UHNWIs), with assets over $30 million. Their numbers rose to 513,244 in 2019 (Rupert Neate, The super-rich: another 31,000 people join the ultra-wealthy elite, The Guardian, 4 March 2020; Flora Harley, UHNWI growth forecasts: where is affluence emerging? Knight Frank Intelligence Lab, 1 Mar 2021).
Their wealth and opportunities are not however comparable to what might be termed the hyper-wealthy -- those multi-billionaires of immeasurable wealth (Meagan Day, The Return of the Super-Elite, Jacobin, 18 July 2018; The Rise of the New Global Elite, The Atlantic, January/February 2011). As a class, the inequalities characterized by the wealthy are frequently cited as a primary indicator of the current problematic condition of global civilization (Just 8 Men own same Wealth as Half the World, Oxfam International, 16 January 2017). The complicity of many in sustaining their wealth is however seldom addressed.
Individuals of great wealth and power are increasingly a focus of concern, most notably in the form of conspiracy theories (David Rothkopf, Superclass: the global power elite and the world they are making, 2008; Peter S. Goodman, Davos Man: how the billionaires devoured the world, 2022; Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: the rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else, 2012). They may well be seen as the epitome of evil -- possibly assumed to have occult and satanic associations. Their elimination is seen by many to be a precondition of a just world order. Their possessions are however also a focus of admiration and envy -- evoking aspiration to emulate them in some measure. National lotteries cater to this possibility.
What follows is a form of speculative thought experiment to clarify what it is that sustains the lifestyles of the super-rich and the super-powerful -- as this might be understood from their own perspective. This contrasts with other more conventional critical perspectives (Luca Storti, et al, The Super-rich: origin, reproduction, and social acceptance, Sociologica, 15, 2021, 2; S. Khan, The Many Futures of Elites Research, Sociologica, 10, 2016, 2). With some of them characterized as "Masters of the Universe" (or "Mistresses of the Universe"), what can be understood as the focus of their attention in their daily lives?
The concern here is not with the many billionaires, namely those "on the way up", or the "nouveaux riches". The interest here is with those whose wealth is self-sustaining and beyond question, namely those who feel no need to prove themselves, or to justify themselves to the wider world -- or possibly even to their peers. They have no need for any wider network of contacts, except with those who contribute to the sustainability of their condition -- and typically indirectly.
There is clearly a need for some clarification in the use made of superlative prefixes such as "super-", "ultra-", or "hyper-", whether applied to wealth, riches, power, influence, elites, or class. For the purpose of this argument, use is first made of "super-" with reference to issues shared with those evoking the distinctive focus here. Reference is made to "hyper-" in recognition of the complex connotations which call into question the very meaning of "super-" in relation to "wealth", especially for those to whom it then refers.
Historically it is of course the case that similar questions might have been asked of the higher realms of the aristocracy, as identified by the Almanach de Gotha for example. The super-rich are effectively the new aristocracy, whether or not their wealth is inherited within a dynasty as "old money". They are identified in various lists which do not however endeavour to indicate their relationships, as in the Almanach (World Ultra Wealth Report, Wealth-X, 2021; Forbes World’s Billionaires List, 2021; Global Wealth Report, Credit Suisse Research Institute, 2021). Allegedly totalling some 6,000, a selection of 150 from The Superclass List, clustered by country, is presented by Wikipedia (with links to their profiles) in the light of the study by David Rothkopf.
Rather than a conventional focus on monetary wealth and possessions, the argument here endeavours to call into question that understanding by extending its meaning to those who perceive themselves to be extremely wealthy in any manner -- potentially including a radical recognition of "inner wealth", as cultivated by some spiritual traditions. The question is then the nature of the distinctive worldview of the "hyper-wealthy". How do such people think and behave after what could be understood as a successful quest for the Holy Grail -- potentially to the point of having achieved a form of immortality? This offers a sobering reminder that most who deem themselves to be relatively impoverished are held to be "rich" by many others -- even "super-rich",
Use is made in what follows of the hypothetical existence of extraterrestrials (and future contact with them) as potentially exemplifying engagement with the hyper-wealthy -- perceived otherwise. This is reminiscent of the encounter of many indigenous peoples with early colonists seemingly endowed with relative sophistication. Such encounters are now rendered in media dramatisations of "first contact", with some then recognizing the relatively impoverished condition of humanity and its bizarre understandings of possession -- potentially of little significance from the "universal" perspective of ETs. Hyper-wealth can then be addressed in the light of emerging interest in hyperobjects and hyposubjects, as articulated from the perspective of object-oriented ontology (OOO) by Timothy Morton (Hyposubjects: On Becoming Human, 2021).
Any perception of relative wealth may then usefully merit consideration from the documented experience of a reality distortion field -- potentially fundamental to experience of the hyper-wealthy, and to experience of them. Does everyone have the potential capacity to engender a reality distortion field -- and the right to do so?
It is useful to provide a context for this argument -- in the form of a checklist of the tangible possessions and status symbols of the super-rich to which ordinary people typically aspire and may consider that they lack in some measure:
Super-elites may indeed be confronted with constraints of a kind, despite a perception of them as free of the constraints with which many are only too familiar. A checklist is again a useful reminder:
Of some interest is the extent to which super-elites also experience themselves to be "boxed in" by such contraints, in contrast with public perceptions that their lifestyles are not subject to "normal" constraints. The distinction is explored separately in the light of the contrasting insights of the frog-in-the-well and turtle of Chinese fable, and the possibility of encountering "black swans" (Constrained, Unconstrained and Surprised in a Global Context, 2022).
Can super-elites be usefully recognized as vulnerable to lifestyle diseases, as separately explored (Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases of Rich and Poor, 2010).
It is misleading to avoid recognition of the problematic preoccupations of super-elites (Rachel Sherman, Uneasy Street. the anxieties of affluence, 2019). Complementing the framing of needs by Maslow, there is therefore a case for recognizing how some form of inversion of that hierarchy might apply. This could be especially appropriate in the case of the super-malignant, as argued separately (Reframing the hierarchy of needs (in principle) to encompass the need for evil (in practice), 2022; Requisite representation of complementary hierarchies?, 2022). Speculatively, for mnemonic purposes, these may be understood as interwoven as a strange attractor (El-Attractor -- Timeless Complex Dynamic: Health, Wealth, Stealth / Youth, Couth, Truth, 2007).
Given the aspirations associated with many needs, these may be usefully explored as "dreams", especially as they take collective form (Dreamables, Deniables, Deliverables and Duende, 2015). This explores the global dynamics "at the table" -- inspired by dining and wining in practice. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations invites similar exploration (Systemic Coherence of the UN's 17 SDGs as a Global Dream, 2021).
Aside from the "essentials" by which they are distinguished, and by which they distinguish themselves, clearly there is a question as to how super-elites are to be distinguished from ordinary human beings. Is there any sense in which super-elites are "super-human beings", as they might claim, or as others might claim of them? This is evident with respect to those deemed holy or wise, as well as in the popular appreciation of many celebrities.
A critical focus might be on the degree to which they embody a higher order of:
How would a member of the super-elites function when lacking any distinctive "human" qualities, as potentially epitomized by the tale by Robert Musil (A Man Without Qualities, 1930-1943). The degree to which "super" qualities are successfully inherited is clearly a matter of concern within any dynasty -- a matter only too evident in the case of inbred aristocracies.
How do the qualities above manifest in the conversational skills of the super-elite -- given the problematic archetype of the malignant "silver-tounged"? Are the super-elites especially endowed in discourse with the negative capability for which the poet John Keats yearned? Do the qualities indicated enable the super-elites to formulate "super-questions" (Superquestions for Supercomputers, 2010). Are the super-elites especially wise -- and recognized as a source of wisdom -- if only among themselves? Like many, are they especially vulnerable to question avoidance -- or more so? (Question Avoidance, Evasion, Aversion and Phobia, 2006)
Nature: Questions arise with regard to the following:
Given the cultivated lack of transparency, any of these can be interpreted as fundamental to perceptions of conspiracy and inherent arrogance. Super-elites may themselves be highly sensitive to manoeverings of their peers by which they may be disadvantaged. Of interest is then whether any of their relationships are above suspicion and the need for continuing vigilance.
Of some relevance is how super-elites caricature each other with nicknames, whether in private or in gatherings of peers.
Indications from "supernal" or "infernal" realms? It could be fruitfully assumed that a primary source of clues as to the sustaining dynamic of the super-elites could be sought in insights regarding "heaven". It is indeed the case that the lifestyle conditions of the super-elites are readily described as "heavenly" -- thereby evoking aspirations to that condition.
A major difficulty in seeking such clues is that descriptions of the dynamics in heaven and among its inhabitants are essentially elusive and scanty at best. Extensive reference may well be offered in the scriptures regarding choral harmonics and the music of the spheres. This is not especially helpful regarding the lifestyle of the super-elites and the harmony with which it might be assumed to be imbued. Little is said about the significance of interaction between deities and holy figures, for example. It is however the case that some myths offer extensive tales of divine drama which could presumably be considered as somewhat indicative of the dynamics among super-elites. Ironically many are indeed considered to be god-like by their entourage -- and may well be named in those terms.
By contrast, to the extent that super-elites are deemed to be the epitome of evil, clues might be usefully sought from the dynamics of hell. Again however the details regarding the relations between demonic entities are not especially explicit, although described as suitably horrific by the scriptures. Whether the daily life of super-elites is helpfully described as "hellish" does not therefore give any sense of the detailed interactions by which that hell is sustained.
In both cases it is implied that the inhabitants of supernatural realms have aspirations to ever higher ranking associated with their progressive acquisition of greater insight. But again it is perhaps necessarily far from clear what new knowledge is associated with that process, with what questions those of lower ranks have to deal, or how the answers effectively address their relative ignorance
As implied by any vague comparison with the "higher spheres" of supernatural realms (as above), questions that might be asked with regard to super-elites include:
Despite the indicative listings of super-elites (noted above), their number and activities are necessarily a source of extreme controversy and speculation (Iqbal Latif, The New 'Superclass': Hype -vs- Reality, Global Politician, 2008; Alexander Romanov, How 6,000 people can rule the world).
To the extent that the actions of super-elites are readily perceptible, as a checklist they may include the following:
The need of super-elites for action, or involvement in it, may be subject to the reservation assumed to be associated with all-powerful emperors of Chinese tradition. Such an emperor does not need to "do", but rather to cultivate a context imperceptibly -- a context in which others act appropriately, however that is understood (Comprehension of Appropriateness, 1986).
Credible, although less obvious, may well be the cultivation by super-elites of shared concerns for the viability of other super-elites over the longer term, most obviously through:
The strategic preoccupation of the super-elites in relation to global governance most obviously includes promotion of particular values and agendas, epitomized by:
Wealth management? Although presented and acclaimed as philanthropy of a high order, such initiatives readily evoke criticism as potentially cynical forms of wealth management in response to the constraints of taxation. As noted by Paul Vallely (How philanthropy benefits the super-rich, The Guardian, 8 September 2020):
Philanthropy, it is popularly supposed, transfers money from the rich to the poor. This is not the case. In the US, which statistics show to be the most philanthropic of nations, barely a fifth of the money donated by big givers goes to the poor... The common assumption that philanthropy automatically results in a redistribution of money is wrong. A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes. Rather than making the world a better place, it largely reinforces the world as it is.
Super-rich philanthropists, therefore, find themselves in a position where a large percentage of their gift is funded by the taxpayer. Thus it becomes far less clear whether the money philanthropists give away can rightfully be regarded as entirely their own. If taxpayers contribute part of the gift, why should they not have a say in which charity receives it?
Advanced technology as "magic"? Super-elites have access to the most advanced technologies and analytical capacities. Far less obvious is the capacity of the super-elites to "think the unthinkable" or to enable others to do so (Emmie Martin, The super wealthy have their own exclusive versions of Amazon, Tinder and Instagram, CNBC, 10 May 2017). They fund institutes of advanced studies and think tanks, whose agendas they are able to control.
They clearly have access to the latest advances of artificial intelligence and the insights it may offer in elaborating strategies held to be advantageous -- in contrast to those which are potentially (if not demonstrably) catastrophic. The technologies to which they access may even be perceived as "magic" from conventional perspectives -- in the light of the insight of Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (Cultural Research and Innovation Lab, 8 November 2018).
Longer-term perspective? It is therefore only possible to speculate on the nature of unpublicised strategies of a highly controversial nature in which super-elites might engage. Predictably these would be evoked by preoccupation with longer-term priorities -- beyond the short-term focus of governments and the institutions whose priorities they control.
What new form might "thinking the unthinkable" now secretively take -- following the continuing inspiration provided by the slogan of Herman Kahn (Thinking About The Unthinkable, 1962; Thinking About the Unthinkable in the 1980s, 1984).
Sophisticated strategies as "evil"? As with Clarke's "magic", would the nature of such strategies be indistinguishable from "evil" -- as suggested by the controversies with which they are believed to be associated, to the extent that their nature is suspected or inferred? Are collective strategies deemed appropriate by some indeed indistinguishable from evil (as perceived by others). Indicative examples include
Thinking the unthinkable? As responses to the pandemic have demonstrated, it is questionable whether the fasionable promotion of "thinking the unthinkable" (in the face of potential disaster) is capable of circumventing current institutional and media constraints (Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon, Thinking the Unthinkable: a new imperative for leadership in the digital age, 2018).
It is a reasonable assumption that super-elites are necessarily strategically vigilant. Some may therefore be prepared to consider what is otherwise unthinkable with regard to global crisis -- as suggested by "just suffering theory". How might they consider the conclusions of root cause analysis with respect to processes driving the current crisis? Is it possible that drivers such as environmental degradation, climate change, unemployment, resource shortages, violence, and civilizational diseases, have a common root cause -- as yet to be appropriately recognized?
Unnameable root cause? More to the point, is the root cause one that cannot be named in public discourse -- because of the controversy and denial it arouses? A fruitful comparison might be made with the assumption by most authorities in 1912 that RMS Titanic was unsinkable -- or with references to the "elephant in the living room" in the case of clmate change (Climate Change and the Elephant in the Living Room, 2008). Most obviously, it is the super-rich who are only too readily identified as being that root cause -- given their degree of control of resources and the extensive documentation of inequality (as noted above).
There is therefore a case for exercises in exploring decision-making on climate change and resource issues in the face of the politically unnameable (Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem, 2009).
With respect to ensuring a "safe operating space for humanity", there is however remarkably little "insight uptake capacity", as evidenced by response to the warnings variously articulated over past decades (Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations: a 50-year overview, 2018; Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action, 2009; Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018; Michael S. Wogalter, Handbook of Warnings, 2006; Keith Suter, Fair warning? The Club of Rome revisited, Resilience, 30 December 1999).
Free of such constraints and blindspots, the hyper-wealthy might be expected to be actively exploring constraints on resources in the face of evidence of unconstrained population growth and its systemic denial (Local Reality of Overcrowding -- Global Unreality of Overpopulation, 2019). In a condition in which the world is permeated by misinformation, it is to be expected that any consideration of such matters would be immediately entangled and enwrapped in controversy theories regarding the self-serving, evil intentions of the hyper-wealthy:
Rather than the familiar deprecation of overpopulation as being a root cause in its own right, is there an even more fundamental root cause to which the hyper-wealthy might themselves be attentive? Curiously (and ironically) -- and perhaps necessarily paradoxically -- engendering progeny could be readily recognized as a quest for a form of wealth. Through intercourse, it is one which is intimately related to the quest for inner wealth, usefully indicated above as "wholth". As with the quest for material wealth, it may merit considered exploration as a fundamental instance of misplaced concreteness -- of reification and a quest for the ungraspable (Misplaced concreteness as a form of encryption, 2021).
Rather than the futility of rational argument regarding the "overpopulation myth", it may prove to be the case that it is the aesthetics of wholth which offers a means of reconciling the extremes of wealth and poverty (Creating one's own reality through aesthetics, 2022). Their compatibility -- their reconciliation -- necessarily eludes conventional modes of articulation (Engaging with Elusive Connectivity and Coherence: global comprehension as a mistaken quest for closure, 2018; Comprehension of Unity as a Paradoxical Dynamic: metaphors reframing problematic engagement with otherness, 2019).
Reframing disagreement? Would the hyper-wealthy have methodologies to address their own contrasting strategic views on global crisis -- or even the motivation to develop them? To what degree might they consider that disagreement is especially fruitful, reinforcing conspiracy theories regarding the deliberate cultivation of chaos? Is such disagreement unavoidable, as argued by Nicholas Rescher:
For centuries, most philosophers who have reflected on the matter have been intimidated by the strife of systems. But the time has come to put this behind us -- not the strife, that is, which is ineliminable, but the felt need to somehow end it rather than simply accept it and take it in stride. To reemphasize the salient point: it would be bizarre to think that philosophy is not of value because philosophical positions are bound to reflect the particular values we hold. (The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985)
It could then be asked whether any remedial strategy at this time could be other than painful -- and therefore unthinkable. Failure to act is however unlikely to be a solution, as the degrading global condition makes only too evident. The consequence of such failure is to abandon civilization to "systemic remedial processes" whose symptoms are climate change, resource constraints, and uncontrolled violence.
Painful remedial action? It is then appropriate to assume that the hyper-wealthy variously endeavour to "ride the tiger" in the unthinkable ways in which they are already suspected of being complicit. Should the various processes of population reduction be seen in this light, including wars, climate change and pandemics?
Painless alternatives are clearly controverisal and consequently non-viable with conventional insight, and with little effort to address the .strategoic dlilemmas implied. That some should take it upon themselves to enable painful remedial measures can indeed be seen as highly regrettable. However from a systemic perspective, and as seen by future generations, they may well be deemed necessary and comprehensible (Gruesome but Necessary: global governance in the 21st Century? 2021). Will " business as usual" be understood as an indicator of systemic negligence?.
There is of course no lack of conventional strategic responses to problematic issues -- even of the most detailed nature, as documented in the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. Such issues can be compared with the non-comprehension of "q-holes", so ably described by Ronald Atkin with respect to the communication patterns within his own university (Combinatorial Connectivities in Social Systems: an application of simplicial complex structures to the study of large organizations, 1977). Q-analysis clarifies how many q-holes are engendered so that subordinate bodies are trapped in the flow of noise around and between them (Comprehension and Organization, 1983). The fundamental challenge is then reminiscent of the seminal articulation of Nicholas of Cusa (De Docta Ignorantia, 1440).
Recognized otherwise, analogues of super-elites (if not hyper-elites) can be recognized in other domains. For example, religions traditionally refer to "holiness". One preferred term is "excellence", widely promoted in Europe through networks of "centres of excellence".
Super versus Hyper: Use of the prefix "super-" misleadingly implies a linear progression in wealth; one that is all too readily quantifiable. The behaviour (and especially the thinking,) of those distinguished by use of "super-" might be better understood through increasing reference to "hyper-". As noted above, this offers implications of more complex modes of behaviour which are not a simple extension of normal behaviour.
Use of "hyper-" is an appropriate challenge to conventional understandings of wealth, power and influence. Presumably those super-elites able to reframe the meaning of wealth and power merit recognition as hyper-elites -- although potentially evoking a different kind of opprobrium, in being presumed to be sinister to an even higher degree.
Curiously one of the few references to hyper-elitism in another context has evoked extensive commentary (Syed Mahmudur Rahman, Hyper-Elitism in Writing Literary Criticisms: Theories and References, Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 9, 2018, 6). More curiously by contrast, hyper-elitism has been seen as a remedy to super-elitism in sport -- deemed dysfunctional (Jon Brown, Protecting the competition environment through hyper-elitism, Fast Running, 24 September 2018).
Unfortunately for the development of this argument, commercial use is already made of "hyper-wealth" in reference to extreme wealth -- and therefore simply as a further extension of the understanding associated with "super-" (somewhat ironically through "hype"). This avoids recognition of the complexity associated with other potential uses of the "hyper-" prefix as argued separately (Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive, 2006). There it is seen as a necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety. Such reframing can be taken further through meta-analogy (Imagining Order as Hypercomputing, 2014).
Hyper-wealth and hyper-learning: It might then be argued that fundamental to the thinking of the hyper-wealthy is the process whereby they continually reframe the meaning of wealth -- at least for themselves -- if only as a fundamental dimension by which they are defined and distinguished from others.
Some indication of this process is offered by the argument of Edward Hess and Kazimierz Gozdz with regard to learning and unlearning (Becoming a Hyper-learning Community: the future of business, UVA Darden, 25 January 2018):
What type of environment enables the highest levels of human performance? What type of environment will enable the highest levels of psychological flow and collective intelligence? What type of environment will enable the highest levels of continuous hyper-learning -- unlearning and relearning? ... A new form of business organization, a Hyper-Learning Community, is needed for keeping pace with the transformations required by the Digital Age -- a community that is more humanistic, people-centric, and designed to enable the highest levels of human cognitive and emotional performance.
Conventional thinking with regard to power and wealth does not embody the dynamics of the challenging reframing in which the hyper-wealthy and the hyper-powerful are obliged to engage -- or be placed at a disadvantage by the dynamcs of the times and the actions of their peers. The essence of wealth may lie in the dynamics by which it is framed.
Feeling "good in one's skin"? Given the fundamental relationship of wealth to collective confidence, if only in financial terms, it is especially intriguing to consider how the wealthy may be essentially "impoverished", whether in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. The hyper-wealthy may be obliged to reframe creatively a degree of conflation between the wealth, health and stealth with which they are familiar, as speculatively explored elsewhere (El-Attractor -- Timeless Complex Dynamic: Health, Wealth, Stealth / Youth, Couth, Truth, 2007). This argument can be taken further with respect to the cognitive dynamics of the sustaining meta-pattern (Wholth as Sustaining Dynamic of Health and Wealth, 2013).
Such arguments contribute to inquiry into who is exceptionally wealthy and powerful and what forms this may take. It may indeed be a matter of choice whether one defines oneself to be "rich" (given the resources at one's disposal) or "powerful" (given one's relationship to one's environment). Are both a form of illusion which can be creatively cultivated -- as with any sense of being "Master of the Universe" (Being the Universe: a metaphoric frontier, 1999; Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008).
Inner wealth versus Inner poverty: As has been made abundantly clear by the current financial crisis, wealth (as a tangible) and enriching oneself (as a dynamic) are intimately dependent on the intangibles of confidence and trust. Confidence, as understood dynamically within any community, is also suggestive of a quality of wholth, as stressed above.
This recalls the long (religious) tradition supporting the argument for simple living, with its emphasis on discovering inner resources and wealth (Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity, 2010). It has been characterized as a process through which individuals become satisfied with the tangibles they need rather than those to which they might misleadingly aspire. This could be framed in terms of the sense of essential wealthiness experienced through intangibles rather than a dependence on tangibles -- as encouraged by socioeconomic convention. Again, to be viable, this implies a necessarily mysterious relationship to a sustaining sense of wholth enabling other forms of sustainable growth.
As argued by Peter Koenig, there is no correlation between external hyper-wealth (as quantitatively measured) and any sense of internal wealth (30 Lies About Money: liberating your life, liberating your money, 2003). It is the illusory nature of this assumed correlation which justifies the cognitive challenge associated with the framing by "hyper". Significantly, whilst much research is done on the economic implications of poverty and deprivation, little attention is given to the psycho-social implications of surfeit. This suggests the value of longer-term investigation and case studies. A valuable contrast is provided by the Kingdom of Bhutan, according to principles of Gross National Happiness (S M Mamunur Rahman, Bhutan’s Secret to Happiness, Medium, 29 August 2020)
Understandings of inner wealth, as typically promoted from a spiritual perspective, usefully frame questions regarding the engagement with those considerd to be impoverished -- or experiencing themselves as such. To what extent is this indicative of the existential paradox by which the hyper-wealthy are confronted?
The issues are highlighted by the process of begging, as experienced by the hyper-wealthy (Confusion in Exchanging "Something" for "Nothing": cognitive implication in the asymmetrical processes of begging and its surrogates, 2015). With an implication of "hyper-impoverishment", especially of a non-material nature, there is the corresponding question of how most fruitfully to engage with the elusive insights of the hyper-wealthy (Engaging with Insight of a Higher Order: reconciling complexity and simplexity through memorable metaphor, 2014).
Wealthy or not, in whatever manner and to whatever degree, the paradox is all the greater in the light of the personal experience of inner poverty (Anne L. Wissler, Inner Poverty: the realm of the Hungry Ghost, The Psychotherapy Patient, 7, 1991, 1-2; Sri Chinmoy, The Inner Poverty, 1970). For Henry Makow, writing of the US:
Its symptoms are sense of emptiness, meaninglessness and lack of direction. It’s like our soul has gone AWOL Inner poverty is a spiritual vacuum at the core of our being... There is no way of gauging how serious this epidemic is, but according to some estimates, more than 90% of the population lives below the inner poverty line. (The Inner Poverty, WarIsCrime, 17 May 2014).
For Tim Malnick:
We must acknowledge inner poverty as a universal human experience. An absolutely fundamental first step is to recognise and fully encounter one’s own sense of inner poverty. Most of us, regardless of whether we have material wealth or not, have an experience of some kind of inner lack, need or poverty. (The Inner Dimensions of Wealth and Poverty, Money and Life, 11 February 2018)
Guise and disguise: To what extent are wealth and power a pretence -- as with health? Considerable effort is invested in such pretence by those dependent on such appreciation, whether for themselves or to ensure their position in their community. On the other hand, appreciating their own wealth and power, some have no need to act in this way -- even when defined by convention as impoverished, powerless or unhealthy (whether physically, emotionally, morally, or spiritually).
There is then a play between guise and disguise in a context rife with lack of transparency and a plethora of misinformation -- "assuming a virtue if one has it not" (Lloyd Davis, Guise and Disguise: Rhetoric and Characterization in the English Renaissance, 1993). This invites recognition of archetypal extremes.
Emphasis has long been placed on the role of super-powers on a global scale. The term is not used in relation to the super-elites, although it is readily understood that they have "super-powers" in a financial sense and through their influence on decision-making. It is the popular media which offers fictional content regarding individuals having "super-powers" -- associated with their "inner wealth" and potentially then to be recognized as superhumans.
In contrast to the superpowers of the world, reference has been made to the United States as a hyper-power. This is held to be a state that dominates all other states in every domain, understood as full-spectrum dominance; it has no rivals that can match its capabilities, and is considered to be a step higher than a superpower. Although the USA has exhibited the traits of a hyperpower, its global influence has begun to decline relative to other potential superpowers.
More intriguing from this perspective, and from that of some conspiracy theories, is the sense in which a group of the hyper-wealthy could be understood as constituting such a hyper-power through which global control is ensured in some manner. As noted above, this group might be understood as numbering 6,000, perhaps led by an even smaller group.
It remains far from clear how the dynamics of such a group might operate to ensure its viability and sustainability over time. These naturally evoke speculation regarding occult rituals, and the like, of which those envisaged by the Nazi regime are indicative of the most problematic extreme (Joris Nieuwint, The Nazi Temple of Doom: Wewelsburg Castle, War History Online, 25 April 2018). Many temples have been designed to house dynamics at the other extreme, necessarily with minimal clarity regarding their operation.
With the deep investment of some of the hyper-wealthy in the corporations active in disparate domains, conspiracy theories are naturslly evoked by the manner in which some take the form of oligopolies -- perhaps to be usefully recognized operationally as hyper-powers. An oligopoly is a market structure in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of large corporations (possibly to be understood as controlled by oligarchs). The hyper-wealthy may well protect themselves by investing in competing corporations in an oligopolistic market -- a processs termed "common ownership" (Common Ownership by Institutional Investors and its Impact on Competition, OECD, 29 November 2017).
Oligopolies typically result from the desire to maximize profits, leading to collusion between corporations -- evoking perception of them as cartels. In reducing competition, the collusion leads to higher prices for consumers and lower wages for employees. Many industries have been cited as oligopolistic, including oil, news media, civil aviation, electricity providers, telecommunications, transport, food processing, pharmaceuticals, smartphones, sugar refining, music industry, computer operating systems, cellular networks, beer making, pulp and paper making, and automobile manufacturing (Adam Hayes, Oligopolies: Some Current Examples, Investioedia, 28 March 2022; 9 Best Examples of Oligopoly in 2022, RankRed, 2 January 2022; John Spacey, 32 Examples of an Oligopoly, Simplicable, 19 May 2020). The association of organized crime with drug cartels is especially deprecated.
Conspiracy theories focus on the existence of those to whom oligarchs are beholden.
Hyperobjects and hyperreality? There is an apparent lack of methodologies and "language" for exploring exotic communities (as may be assumed are formed by the hyper-wealthy) -- or the lack of motivation to develop them. The difficulties are evident with respect to two extremes, although others might be imagined:
Participants in both groups may well cultivate forms of mystification in their quest for coherence -- mystification which is a challenge to conventional understanding and exacerbated by a deliberate lack of transparency. As argued above, "wealth" may in both cases be understood otherwise, in a manner unrelated to monetary conventions. As such, both evoke suspicions and assertions as to their problematic or malignant nature. To whatever extent cults are held to be associated with the "good" or the "bad", especially by their participants, these invite explanations in terms of self-delusion, misleadership and gullibility.
In the quest for an appropriate methodology, especially attentive to potential inadequacies in the eyes of the beholder, recent articulations of hyperobjects may well offer fruitful insights (Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the End of the World, University of Minnesota Press, 2013; Hyperobjects: an excerpt, Academia.edu; Introducing the Idea of ‘Hyperobjects’: a new way of understanding climate change and other phenomena, High Country News, 19 January 2015). The challenging nature of such subtlety is suggested by earlierr use of "hyperobject" by computer science to denote n-dimensional non-local entities.
Is the realm of the hyper-wealthy then to be understood as such an "object" -- even as an "n-dimensional non-local entity"? For Morton, a hyperobject is held to be of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions in relation to human life that it defeats traditional ideas about what is indicated -- an association with references to hyperreality.
Global comprehension may have been misleadingly framed as a mistaken quest for closure (Engaging with Elusive Connectivity and Coherence, 2018). More challenging from that perspective, in the case of the hyper-wealthy, is the experiential sense in which they might frame themselves as "hypo-subjects" (Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer, Hyposubjects: On Becoming Human, 2021).
Comprehension might also be explored in terms of the nature of the quest itself, too readily framed in terms of monetary wealth for those "on the way up". Far less evident is the nature of the quest for the hyper-wealthy in "being there". For participants in the communities cited above, for whom wealth may also be understood otherwise, the quest is typically exemplified by one or more initiations through which the goal of that quest is progressively understood and achieved (Varieties of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being "born again", 2014; A. P. Elkin, Aboriginal Men of High Degree, 1993).
Illuminati as archetypal elites? As conventionally understood, the super-rich are only too readily conflated with understandings of the mythical Illuminati and their membership (Angela Farrer, Who Are the Members of the Illuminati? PublicPeople, 29 July 2022). Any reference to such a group exemplifies the challenges of comprehension and communication about the hyper-wealthy. The Wikipedia profile of the "Illuminati" is however a model of balance in endeavouring to navigate the associated mystification. The name has been given to secretive groups, both real and fictious (and variously associated with the Rosicrucians and Freemasons), allegedly a continuation of the original Bavarian Illuminati. Such links are considered to be unsubstantiated, whatever their credibility in the eyes of some.
The "Illuminati" have often often been accused of conspiring to control world affairs, by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations, in order to gain political power and influence and to establish a New World Order. As noted by Wikipedia:
Central to some of the more widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories, the Illuminati are depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power. This view of the Illuminati has found its way into popular culture, appearing in dozens of novels, films, television shows, comics, video games and music videos.
Several recent and present-day fraternal organisations claim to be descended from the original Bavarian Illuminati and openly use the name "Illuminati". Some of these groups use a variation of "The Illuminati Order" in the name of their own organizations, while others, such as the Ordo Templi Orientis, have "Illuminati" as a grade within their organization's hierarchy. For example, on what is claimed to be an an official website of the Illuminati, the Illuminati Elites are described as:
an elite organisation of world leaders, business authorities, innovators, artists, and other influential members of this planet. Our coalition unites influential of all political, religious, and geographical backgrounds to further the prosperity of the human species as a whole.
Conspiracies engendering a New World Order: The mystification of the hyper-wealthy has resulted in the identification of groups, other than the "Illuminati", variously associated with conspiracies enabling emergence of a new world order. Many influential historical and contemporary figures have therefore been alleged to be part of a cabal that operates through front organizations to orchestrate significant political and financial events. These range from causing systemic crises to pushing through controversial policies, at both national and international levels, as steps in an ongoing plot to achieve world domination.
As indicated in an extensive review by Wikipedia, systemic conspiracy theories are associated with groups and memes such as:
Criticism of conspiracy theories may well comment usefully on the psycho-social benefits for their cultivation in the light of the coherence they offer to those subscribing to them in a social system only too evidently characterized by chaos, fragmentation and mutual blame. Ambiguity regarding the intentions of elusive players -- enabling or exploiting humanity -- is indicative of the very nature of the "hyper-conspiracies" in which the hyper-wealthy are embedded -- as potentially to be recognized as hyposubjects in their own right (Inspiration, Conspiration, Transpiration, Expiration: towards a universal model of conspiracy theories, 2020).
There is increasing recognition of how information is associated with power, and hence the huge investment in its acquisition, whether by corporations or by government intelligence agencies. Emphasis is placed on the distinction between data, information and knowledge, namely with acquiring the insight to interpret information fruitfully -- even imaginatively. It is in this sense that wealth is recognized as associated with information (John Mariotti, The Wealth of Information based Knowledge, Forbes, 20 November 2010; Mitch Pudil, Information Wealth in Big Data, Codazen, 11 January 2021; J. Langrish, et al, Wealth from Knowledge: studies of innovation in industry, 1972). The hyper-wealthy could therefore be understood as having an especially fruitful relation to information through their insight into its significance.
This implies that hyper-wealth could be usefully understood as less directly and immediately associated with material wealth or with any conventional sense of power in the present -- rather than with knowledge of its potential value in the future (Andy Kessler, Wealth Is Knowledge, Wall Street Journal, 6 February 2022; How is Knowledge Wealth?, Profound-Answers, 10 June 2020). Acquisition of compromising material (kompromat) by security services (about a politician, a businessperson, or other public figure) is valued as a means of blackmail and negative publicity, typically to exert influence rather than monetary gain, and extortion.
The association of information and wealth is especially evident with respect to intellectual property (K. McGuirk, Intellectual Property and Information Wealth: issues and practices in the Digital Age, Online Information Review, 32 2008, 4).
Especially relevant to any understanding of hyper-wealth is the role of imagination and how "out-of-the-box" thinking is creatively enabled. Its detachment from material preoccupations is perhaps best emphasized by its subtle relation to wisdom -- widely acknowledged but essentially elusive. As offered by the poet T. S. Eliot: Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The role of insight is usefully recognized by its engagement with the challenge of information overload resulting from the explosion of accessible information -- the "wealth" of information (Mark Sagor, A Wealth of Information creates a Poverty of Attention, CompEAP Learning Center, 2021). It is insight enabling pattern recognition which is valued with respect to the creation of wealth in any form.
"Wisdom" is of course far more generally valued than in the particular use of the term in relation to material wealth (Tom McCullough and Keith Whitaker, Wealth of Wisdom: the top 50 questions that wealthy families ask, Wiley, 2022; Mark Daniell, et al, Wealth Wisdom for Everyone: an easy-to-use guide to personal financial planning and wealth creation, World Scientific, 2006).
Such restrictive use challenges the sense in which the hyper-wealthy may be essentially wise -- irrespective of their material wealth. As a form of wealth, wisdom has a complex relation to the associated terms:
Such relationships are partially clarified in hierarchical terms (somewhat analogous to the Maslow hierarchy) by the DIKW pyramid of Jennifer Rowley (The Wisdom Hierarchy: representations of the DIKW hierarchy, Journal of Information and Communication Science. 33, 2007, 2). As reproduced (below left) this refers loosely to a class of models for representing purported structural and/or functional relationships between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.
This notably excludes the wealth dimension as argued here -- as might be understood as related to (intellectual) property, for example. Also missing is what might be implied by a complementary (problematic) hierarchy, explored separately in terms of an inversion of the Maslow hierarcchy, as might be appropriate to encompass the evident instances of maligant, manipulative variants of wisdom and knowledge (Reframing the hierarchy of needs (in principle) to encompass the need for evil (in practice), 2022). Such instances are central to conspiracy theories regarding the hyper-wealthy.
Given the complex relation of wealth to confidence in a collective context, this too is questionably omitted from DIKW modelling -- despite its relevance to comprehension of the credibility of the wisdom believed to be central to the operation of cults. With respect to the limitations of hierarchical recognition of inner wealth in terms of degrees and initiations (as noted above), there is therefore a case for elaboration of more complex non-hierarchical representations.
A hierarchical representation tends to de-emphasize the dynamics more apparent in non-hierarchical schematics, as suggested by an adaptation of a phase-diagram (below right) -- omitting additional dimensions indicated above. This is variously reproduced from previous discussions (Cognitive patterns of environmental significance, 2010; Metaphorical geometry as a cognitive vehicle, 2014; Phase diagram of degrees of argument connectivity, 2014)
|Indicative mappings of hyper-wealth complex|
|Knowledge management cognitive pyramid||Indicative phase-diagram relationships|
|Matthew.viel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons||Suggestive adaptation of phase-diagram schematic|
16-fold representations (8 dimensions): Representation of a "hyper-wealth nexus" of more appropriate complexity can be explored through a tentative mapping of the dimensions discussed above onto suitable polyhedra (Identifying Polyhedra Enabling Memorable Strategic Mapping, 2020; Current relevance of the "simplest torus"?, 2019).
In one exercise using 8 pairs of dimensions, these are mapped onto the 16 opposing vertices of the simplest torus (left below) and onto the 16 faces of the dual (centre below). The same elements are mapped onto the 16 edges of the faceted square antiprism (right below). These exercises assume the "data" dimension is conflated with "information" (and is therefore not indicated). The mapping onto the dual of the simplest torus is less clear because the "faces" are continuous across intersections. This is usefully suggestive of the complexity of the nexus as experienced.
|Hyper-wealth complex indicated by animation of mapping of 16 associated elements|
|Simplest torus (16 vertices)||Dual of simplest torus (16 faces)||Faceted square antiprism (16 edges)|
|Made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
14-fold and 18-fold representations (7 and 9 dimensions): In a third exercise the "data" dimension is included -- contrasted with "supposition" (or possibly "fantasy") -- in an indicative mapping onto the 18 edges of a truncated tetrahedron (and its dual) presented below (left) in wireframe renderings. In a fourth exercise, the nexus was assumed to be defined by 14 dimensions which were tentatively mpped onto a cuboctahedron (14 faces) and onto the vertices of its dual, namely a rhombic dodecahedron (below right).
|Hyper-wealth complex indicated by animated mappings onto other polyhedra|
|18 Edges of truncated tetrahedron||Cuboctahedron and Rhombic dodecahedron|
|Truncated tetrahedron||Dual of truncated tetrahedron||Cuboctahedron (14 faces)||Dual of cuboctahedron (14 vertices)|
|Made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Tentative representation of the hyper-wealth nexus on polyhedra enables the geometry to be used to indicate the systemic dynamics between the elements identified. The edges could therefore be seen as systemic links between disparate dimensions -- although this is not attempted in the above exercises (other than in the 8 sets of opposing extremes in the use of the simplest torus). Such configurations are limited in avoiding indication of relative wealth (whether material or inner) or other distortions.
As discussed separately (Constraint of the 7-fold on comprehension of the 20-fold, 2018), the exercise with the cuboctahedral mappng can be usefully compared (as shown below) with:
|Examples of 7-fold sets mapped arbitrarily onto 7 axes of symmetry of a cuboctahedron|
|7 Axes of Bias (Jones, 1961)||7 Pairs of Opposites (Robinson, 2018)||7 Polar extremes of wealth complex (above)|
|Axes of symmetry generated by Stella Polyhedron Navigator. Axes through the vertexes -- mauve -- are not used|
The mapping exercises indicate the need for clarification in conflating dimensions indicative of polar extremes -- in this case between 9 (18 elements), 8 (16) and 7 (14). This is notably highlighted with respect to "facts", too readily asociated with "data" and/or "information" -- especially in the light of arguments regarding "facticity" in an era of misinformation (Zen of Facticity: Bull, Ox or Otherwise? Herding facts and their alternatives in a post-truth-era, 2017).
20-fold representation (10 dimensions): The conflation to 7 dimensions can be understood as inappropriately omitting the dimension of "confidence/untrustworthiness". More intriguing is how the hyper-complex might be represented with 10 dimensions (20 elements), in the light of other concerns (Requisite 20-fold Articulation of Operative Insights? Checklist of web resources on 20 strategies, rules, methods and insights, 2018; Memetic Analogue to the 20 Amino Acids as vital to Psychosocial Life? 2015).
As discussed previously with respect to the examples (above, left and centre), each example highlights the challenge of dilemmas in engaging with the elements of a 20-fold set -- especially those taking the form of opposites to be reconciled. Of great potential relevance are ongoing explorations of oppositional logic and oppositional geometry, as discussed separately (Oppositional Logic as Comprehensible Key to Sustainable Democracy: configuring patterns of anti-otherness, 2018; Neglected recognition of logical patterns -- especially of opposition, 2017).
The latter discusses explorations of logical geometry and Aristotelian diagrams, as most recently summarized in a very comprehensive paper by Lorenz Demey and Hans Smessaert (Logical and Geometrical Distance in Polyhedral Aristotelian Diagrams in Knowledge Representation, Symmetry, 2017). This develops the idea that Aristotelian diagrams can be fruitfully studied as geometrical entities. In particular, it focuses on four polyhedral Aristotelian diagrams for the 16 distinctions of Boolean algebra B4, viz. the rhombic dodecahedron, the tetrakis hexahedron [dual of the truncated octahedron] the tetraicosahedron and the nested tetrahedron.
As a further exercise regarding the opposing distinctions characteristic of the hyper-wealth complex, 10 dimensions can be associated with the icosahedron (20 faces) or its dual the dodecahedron (20 vertices) as shown below. In addition to the 9 dimensions of mapped onto the truncated dodecahedron (above), A 10th was added in the form of competence/incompetence.
|Hyper-wealth complex indicated by animated mappings onto icosahedron and dodecahedron|
|Icosahedron (20 faces_||Dodecahedron (20 vertices)||Folding of icosahedron from 2D to 3D|
|Made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Morphological transformations: Aside from its relevance to oppositional logic (through its dual), the cuboctahedron is especially valuable due to its well-studied geometrical transformation into other polyhedra -- termed the kinematics of the cuboctahedron, now widely known as jitterbug transformations.
This suggests an approach to conflating (or articulating) the distinctions considered memorable with respect to representation of the hyper-wealth complex -- namely conflating or articulating the potential synonyms and antonyms used as labels in the mappings (H. F. Verheyen, The complete set of Jitterbug transformers and the analysis of their motion, Computers and Mathematics with Applications, 17, 1989). Many videos of that "jitterbug" movement exist (Buckminster Fuller's Jitterbug, YouTube, 5 May 2007; Joe Clinton, R. Buckminster Fuller's Jitterbug: its fascination and some challenges, YouTube, 15 March 2008; Bucky's "Jitterbug" -- Vector Equilibrium, 16 October 2008).
Further indications are offered by a morphing-to-dual operation on the icosahedron (below left) -- passing via the intermediary configuration of a truncated icosahedon. The latter may in turn be truncated to its dual, namely the pentakis dodecahedron. This is otherwise created by augmenting a dodecahedron with pentagonal pyramids as shown (below right). The truncated icosahedron of 60 vertices is widely familiar as the stitching pattern of the soccer football, as well as being the form of the recently discovered C60 fullerene, as separately discussed with respect to its psycho-social implications for coherence, integrity and identity of a higher order (Sustainability through Global Patterns of 60-fold Organization, 2022).
|Indication of morphological context of hyper-wealth complex by truncation and augmentation|
|Truncation of icosahedron via
truncated icosahedon to dodecahedron
|Truncation of truncated icosahedron to
|Pentakis dodecahedron by
augmentation of dodecahedron
|Animations made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Dynamic conceptual container for a hyper-object: Framing the hyper-wealth complex by interrelated configurations of contrasting category denotations (points, lines, polygons) suggests that this may be a fruitful means of providing a conceptual "container" for that complex as a hyperobject. The different morphing possibilities effectively recognize that the hyperobject can only be contained dynamically, if at all. The category labels used above are necessarily only indicative of semantic fields of synonyms -- opposed by a corresponding field of antonyms. Applied to points, lines or polygons, they are best understood as fuzzy concepts, susceptible to ordering through fuzzy semantics.
This means the hyper-wealth concept is vague in some way, lacking a fixed, precise meaning, without however being unclear or meaningless altogether (Richard Dietz and Sebastiano Moruzzi, Cuts and Clouds: vagueness, its nature, and its logic, 2009). The lines by which the fields are bounded are then best understood as permeable boundaries across which there may be a process of "conceptual osmosis", as separately discussed (Cognitive Osmosis in a Knowledge-based Civilization, 2017). This argues for recognition of an interface challenge of inside-outside, insight-outsight, information-outformation.
There is therefore a sense in which any one polyhedral container may be necessary under particular conditions, but not sufficient under others. This ambiguity is reminisecent of the Sanskrit expression Neti Neti ("neither this, nor that") and of aesthetic understandings of liminality (Living as an Imaginal Bridge between Worlds: global implications of "betwixt and between" and liminality, 2011).
Disproportionate and relative representations: As noted, the representations above are inadequate in failing to indicate the relative significance of the elements and dimensions depicted. One indicative technique is to augment selected faces, whether to the same extent or disproportionately. The image on the left below presents a simple contrast between material wealth/poverty and inner wealth/poverty. Clearly a far more distorted depiction could be made of these highly controversial issues. Other faces could be similarly augmented.
The central image (below) shows use of another technique whereby the face augmentation is inverted (excavated) through the polyhedron rather than outward -- potentially suggestive of a negative rather than a positive difference. More sophisticated animations would show multiple faces projecting outward and inward dynamically rather than statically. A third possibility (below right) -- indicative of the experiential complexity -- is presentation of the dual (with faces transformed into vertices).
|Hyper-wealth complex indicated by animated mappings onto cuboctahedron variously augmented|
|Wealth / Poverty (Material / Inner)||Inward projection of 2 faces||Dual|
|Made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
As a further illustration of the technique, the representation above could be simplified to contrast material wealth/poverty and inner wealth/poverty as shown below. Again a dual variant is also presented (below right).
|Hyper-wealth complex indicated by animated mappings onto cuboctahedron variously augmented|
|Material wealth / Inner poverty||Material poverty / Inner wealth||Dual|
|Made using Stella Polyhedron Navigator|
Any hypothesis regarding the existence of extraterrestrials, engagement with them, or their role in ordering human affairs, offers a framework through which to explore the lifestyle and behaviours of the super-wealthy -- if only speculatively, as long demonstrated by science fiction. Any mystification of the hyper-wealthy is evident in that relating to extraterrestrials. Ironically, given their cultivated dissociation from the world of ordinary people, the hyper-wealthy could even be considered terrestrial "extras" in the drama of human society.
Conspiracies regarding extraterrestrials, and the possibility of alien invasion, have long been a feature of conspiracy theories -- evoking imaginative accounts of their evil nature (Hypothetical challenge of ETs as intrinsically evil? 2022). Such accounts are necessarily remarkably similar to speculation regarding the hyper-wealthy. Some accounts of alien invasion readily assert that the hyper-wealthy may well be aliens, or posessed by them in some manner. Their seeming indifference to contact with human society could well be understood as corresponding to the apparent indifference of the wealthy to the conditions of the impoverished.
The extraterrestrial meme is however especially useful in evoking speculation regarding the behaviour and preoccupations of the hyper-wealthy -- unchallenged by the constraints experienced by ordinary people. Extraterrestrials could indeed be appropriately recognized as "hyper-wealthy", notably given the possibility that they may have defined wealth in a manner completely distinct from humanity. As with the claims of human spiritual elites, their understanding of wealth may have a totally non-material focus. The fundamental importance of "respect" in gang cultures helps to clarify this contrast, despite any constraints on resources.
In seeking behavioural and lifestyle insights from the ET meme, it could be imagined that "extraterrestrials" might rather see themselves as "hyper-terrestrials", especially in their engagement with human society. If they are assumed to have already "arrived", they may well remain unrecognized because of the form they take (Sensing Epiterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): embedding of "extraterrestrials" in episystemic dynamics? 2013).
Are the hyper-wealthy then to be understood as "embedded" in a manner evoking conspiracy theories -- however misleading? The framework of quantum physics offers the further possibility of "entanglement" (Alexander Wendt, Quantum Mind and Social Science: unifying physical and social ontology, 2015).
An obvious question to be asked with regard to the hyper-wealthy, especially those unconstrained in many conventional ways, is how their insights have enabled global society to degrade to its current condition?
Essentially ineffectual? One respose is the possibility that their insights are "not fit for purpose", namely that they have not been able to formulate a strategy adequate to the dynamic complexity of the global system -- despite the reources they control and are able to elicit (L. McGoey, Why Billionaires Like Bill Gates Can’t Fix the Problems They Helped Create, The New York Times, 25 May 2021). This would be in marked contrast to the wisdom attributed to them by some -- as implied by some conspiracy theories regarding guidance by the enlightened. Indications in that regard are offered by documented dissensions amongst the Illuminati leading to the decline of its original form.
Also questionable is the obvious failure of discourse between proponents of contrasting strategic remedies -- strategies it might be assumed are inspired in some measure by the hyper-wealthy. To the extent that some are understood to have inspired and sustained key think tanks, it is remarkable the degree of unfruitful dissension between them (Tank Warfare Challenges for Global Governance, 2019). The latter extends the "think tank" metaphor to include other cognitive modalities.
Understood as dysfunctional, it might be asked why the hyper-wealthy have not initiated remedial measures through such resources -- as would seem to be the case. Is the Great Reset, promoted by the World Economic Forum, to be considered in that light?
Indifference? A second response is the possibility that the hyper-wealthy are in various ways relatively (if not totally) indifferent to the degrading condition of global civilization.
This could be considered comparable to the tale of Nero "fiddling while Rome burns" -- a meme of current relevance, as explored separately (Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: humanity "bristles" as the world "burns", 2020). Are the hyper-wealthy to be deprecated as modern emulations of Nero faced with the decline of the Roman Empire?
Pseudo-relevance? A third response is the possibility that the degradation of global society is understood quite otherwise, consistent with the argument above regarding the insights into hyper-reality which the hyper-wealthy may assiduously cultivate. This would then be irrespective of the indifference and deprecation of academia -- and the plethora of professors claiming relevant insight. Some would argue that what is deprecated as pseudo-science by the conventions of science is indicative of such thinking -- and indicative of a degree of pseudo-relevsnce of conventional science (Challenges of Science Upheld as an Exclusive Mode of Inquiry: pseudorelevance of science to global crises? 2021). Are the hyper-wealthy to be understood as more relevant to the future of humanity?
So framed and paradoxically, does the future development of global conditions in fact benefit systemically from greed, selfishness, ignorance, and the like -- the deadly sins -- in a manner beyond comprehension within conventional frameworks? Does the competence of the hyper-wealthy lie paradoxically in a "hands-off" posture as a key to hyper-learning and the initiation of hyper-strategies? Is some creative form of "strategic neglect" recognized as maximizing the collective learning experience by which the survival of humanity will be ensured?
Complicity? Appreciation of the current tragedy is rendered more complex by a fourth response, namely the unquestionable degree of complicity of all in the global situation. In identifying the hyper-wealthy as distinct from ordinary mortals, it is readily forgotten that it is the economic activity of many which sustains the few -- the hyper-wealthy.
Whilst deprecating the super-rich, few avoid investing in the products and services which sustain them. It is readily argued that -- being unelected through democratic processes -- their disproportinate influence on decision-making and the lives of many is an affront to democratic principles. Yet it can also be argued that daily use by many of what they provide effectively constitutes a form of popular vote in its own right. The most striking examples are the Microsft operating system, the facilities of Amazon and PayPal, or the connectivity offered by Facebook -- respectively fundamental to the fortunes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerburg.
Individual complicity in engendering and sustaining global crisis merits recognition as a feature of the subtle dynamics of the surreal realm of hyper-reality (Surreal nature of current global governance as experienced, 2016). With the implication that all are hyper-wealthy to the extent that they choose to be so, arguably there is a strange form of "hyper-incompetence" to be recognized in the mirror offered by those framed as blame-worthy elites (Richard Heinberg, The Failure of Global Elites, Resilience, 12 April 2022).
Ronald H. Atkin:
A. B. Atkinson. Inequality: what can be done. Harvard University Press, 2015
F. Barbera, J. Dagnes and A. Salento. Investigating Élites: relationships, spaces, rituals. Sociologica, 10, 2016, 2 [abstract]
David Bohm. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge, 1980
Steven Brams. Superior Beings.: if they exist, how would we know?: Game-Theoretic Implications of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Immortality. Springer, 2006
H. Brockmann, W, Drews, and J. Torpey. A Class for Itself? On the Worldviews of the New Tech Elite. PLoS ONE, 16. 2021, 1 [text]
Tom Burgis. Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World. Harper, 2021
B. Cousin and S. Chauvin. Is There a Global Super Bourgeoisie? Sociology Compass, 15, 2021, 6 [abstract]
B. Cousin, S. Khan, and A. Mears. Theoretical and Methodological Pathways for Research on Elites. Socio-conomic Review, 16, 2018, 2 [abstract]
Crédit Suisse. Global Wealth Report 2021. Credit Suisse Research Institute, 2021 [text].
K. A. Dolan, J. Wang and C. Peterson-Withorn (Eds.). Forbes World’s Billionaires List, 2021 [text]
Duane Elgin. Voluntary Simplicity. Harper, 2010
R. Florida. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Perseus Book Group. 2002
Chrystia Freeland. Plutocrats: the rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else. Penguin Press, 2012
M. Franzini, E. Granaglia and M. Raitano. Extreme Inequalities in Contemporary Capitalism: should we be concerned about the rich?. Springer, 2016
C. Freund ans S. Oliver. The Origins of the Superrich: the billionaire characteristics database. Peterson Institute for International Economics Working Paper, 16, 2016, 1 [text]
M. Gilens. Affluence and Influence. Princeton University Press, 2012
Peter S. Goodman. Davos Man: how the billionaires devoured the world. Custom House, 2022
Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon. Thinking the Unthinkable: a new imperative for leadership in the digital age. John Catt, 2018 [summary]
I. Hay and S. Muller. That Tiny, Stratospheric Apex that owns most of the world: exploring heographies of the super-rich. Geographical Research, 50, 2012, 1 [text]
Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander. Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking. Basic Books, 2013
Morgan Housel. The Psychology of Money: timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness. Harriman House, 2020
James Jackson. The World's Most Dangerous Secret Societies: The Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group, Knights Templar, The Jesuits, Skull And Bones and others. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2015
L. A. Keister. The One Percent. Annual Review of Sociology, 40, 2014 [text].
L. A. Keister and H. Y. Lee. The Double One Percent: identifying an elite and a super-elite using the joint distribution of income and net worth. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 50, 2017 [text]
M. F. R. Kets de Vries. Do you Really Want to Become a Billionaire? A Look Inside the Inner Theatre of the Super-rich. INSEAD Working Paper, 2021/30/EFE. [text]
S. Khan. The Many Futures of Élites Research. A Comment on the Symposium. Sociologica, 10, 2016, 2 [text]
Peter Koenig. 30 Lies About Money: liberating your life, liberating your money. iUniverse, 2003 [summary]
Charles C. Lemert. Thinking the Unthinkable: the riddles of classical social theories. Routledge, 2007
Jane Mayer. Dark Money: the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Anchor, 2017
M. S. Mizruchi. The Resurgence of Élite Research: Promise and Prospects. Sociologica, 10, 2016 2 [text]
Timothy Morton. Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the End of the World. University of Minnesota Press, 2013 [abstract]
Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer. Hyposubjects: On Becoming Human. Open Humanities Press, 2021 [summary]
Peter Phillips. Giants: the global power elite. Seven Stories Press, 2018
Stephen Prothero. God Is Not One: the eight rival religions that run the world -- and why their differences matter. HarperOne, 2010
Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson. The Cultural Creatives: how 50 million people are changing the world. Harmony Books, 2000 [summary]
Elisa Reis and Mick Moore (Eds.). Elite Perceptions of Poverty and Inequality. CROP International Studies in Poverty Research, Zed Books, 2005 [summary]
Nicholas Rescher. The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985
John C Samples. Wholth : a philosophy of religious education. Dissertation: Emmanuel School of Religion, Thesis (M.R.E.), 1972
P. Serafini and J. Smith Maguire. Questioning the Super-Rich: representations, structures, experiences. Cultural Politics, 15, 2019, 1 [text]
Rachel Sherman. Uneasy Street. the anxieties of affluence. Princeton University Press, 2019 [summary]
Alan Shipman and June Edmunds. The New Power Elite: inequality, politics and greed. 2018
Wealth-X. World Ultra Wealth Report 2021. [text]
Wikipedia. Secret Societies: Assassins, Rosicrucianism, Thule Society, Cabal, Black Hand, Bilderberg Group, Vehmic Court, Katipunan, Hunters' Lod. General Books, 2013
Michael S. Wogalter (Ed.). Handbook of Warnings. Routledge, 2006 [summary]
For further updates on this site, subscribe here