The Most Important Variable in the Relational World

The "RV-SI" line on the Matrix is the key relationship variable.

Posted Oct 10, 2020

Usually, grandiose-sounding questions such as this fail to impress when I click on the actual post. I hope this is an exception.

The relational world refers to the network of human connections and exchanges that define us, both in terms of our place in the social matrix and our intrapsychic working models of self and other that are built up over the course of development. Given this incredibly dense concept, is it really the case that there is a central variable that cuts through these domains? Yes, although it is best conceived of as a variable with two sides.

According to the Unified Theory of Knowledge, the key variable is called the “RV-SI line” on the Influence Matrix. “RV” stands for relational value and “SI” stands for social influence”. As this diagram depicts, the variable can be placed on a continuum, with high and low RV-SI templates anchoring the continuum.

Gregg Henriques
The center line of the Matrix with the emotions in white.
Source: Gregg Henriques

We can now define these terms. Social influence refers to the capacity an individual has for moving others in accordance with one’s interests. It is associated with things like rank, status, and having desirable resources, like authority or money.

Relational value refers to the extent to which one is known and valued by important others. This can be defined in terms of the felt sense of relational value inside the individual and value of the individual held by the important other (see here for more detail).

As these two definitions suggest, relational value and social influence are tightly connected, but also are different and separable. To see why they are tightly connected, think about others you value and now think about what you would be willing to do for them if they needed you. Almost by definition, there is a close connection between valuing someone and being willing to work hard or sacrifice things on their behalf to try and help them. This shows that being valued is closely aligned with being invested in and having capacity to influence in a time of need.

To see how they are readily separable, think of a boss or a dominant controlling person who had influence over you, but you deeply disliked. Hating a boss as you work for him is an example of someone who has social influence (i.e., he can move you in accordance with his interests), but no relational value. Indeed, in this example, there is an inverse in that the way he forces you to move translates into your devaluing him.

As this excellent video with Daniel Schmactenberger shows, dynamics involving power (i.e., control over social influence resources) is one of the central issues of the day. He notes how so much of the social forces that govern modern society are about “Game A” dynamics, which involve competition and control for social influence.

Schmachtenberger and others like Jordan Hall, Jim Rutt, and Brett Weinstein advanced a movement toward “Game B”. Their argument has been that the competitive control dynamics for more and more resources and social influence have both raised society’s instrumental capacity tremendously, but it is dangerous and likely self-terminating. They argue passionately that the trend lines are such that we need to make a transition to a different way of being, and soon.

The relationship and distinction between social influence and relational value holds one of the key concepts that is needed for a true “Game B” revolution. Relational value is the experience of being known and valued. This is the variable that society should be structured to maximize. Instead, the capital-labor industry of modernity maximized social influence. The Unified Theory's Influence Matrix suggests that we need to transition into a society that maximizes the felt sense of relational value of each person. It is what indigenous societies did for ages. And it is the value we need to return to if we going to avert global catastrophe.

So now the question becomes, how can we transition from a system that was incentivized to maximize social influence and transition that to one that cultivates the felt sense of relational value? That way, we will obtain the right relation with the central relational variable that frames the human network.