2019-02-14

The Components of Power

Power is your ability to act on the world to accomplish ends, especially against the will of others. Your power is a function of both the state of the world, especially including your position in the world, and your internal nature. The latter is your “intrinsic power”. The former, insofar as it belongs to or refers to you, is your “position”.

For example, if you’re the president, you have a powerful position. You can accomplish a lot in the world, against a lot of resistance, because of your position. But your power also depends heavily on your internal nature. Do you have the skill to organize the white house to do your bidding, outmaneuver your enemies, and accomplish your goals? Ultimately, without this latter type of power, position is useless. It is intrinsic power that turns position into powerful advantage.

Intrisic power is of special interest because it is present in everything you do, it cannot be taken away from you by man or fate, and it is the foundation of all further power.

If we analyze intrinsic power into is components, we find the following:

  1. Will: Fundamental drive to accomplish the objective against cost, difficulty, and resistance.

  2. Intellect: Ability to search over the space of ideas and plans to come up with good ones.

  3. Skill: Available actions that you know how to do. Useful in planning. A type of knowledge.

  4. Knowledge: A map of the domain of operation, how it works, and what will and won’t work.

  5. Form: The quality and abilities of your physical body. Largely what is called fitness. Non-human agents will be different here, obviously.

All else equal, the more you have of each of these, the more powerful you are.

Will comes from clarity and mental order. If your mind is well ordered, and you feel the absolute necessity of some goal, you will have infinite will to think very hard, make big sacrifices, act off script, think outside the box, and otherwise make damn sure it happens. If you are muddled in your thinking, or don’t see the absolute necessity of some objective, you will half-ass it, forget what you’re doing, have magical plans, and give up when the going gets tough.

Intellect can probably be improved, but your brain is only so big and your genetics only so good. Practical intelligence enhancement is mostly about nutrition and sleep. Eat fatty meat, sleep well, and avoid brain damage. Sometimes the answer is simple.

Skill and Knowledge bleed into each other. Skill is just deeply felt knowledge of how to use actions to accomplish ends. The best knowledge is action-proximate, the data appendix of your skills. These come from practical learning, especially experience.

For humans, we don’t need to talk too much about form. You already know you need to get strong and fast, and live up to your genetic potential in all ways. Other people can tell you how to do this better than I can. But this also has a bounded impact. The might of man has never been his body alone. The gains from gains basically top out once you’re among the strongest and healthiest guys in the room.

This boils the problem down down to two practical dimensions of improvement: mental order and clarity, and skills and knowledge. These things themselves bleed into each other, though they are distinct. But they both reside in the mind. Somehow it all comes down to wisdom and virtue.