Oligarchies win except when society enacts effective reforms
“The collapse of urban cultures is an event much more frequent than most observers realize. Often, collapse is well underway before societal elites become aware of it, leading to scenes of leaders responding retroactively and ineffectively as their society collapses around them.” – Sander Vander Leeuw, Archaeologist, 1997
The article gives some useful insights in some contexts, and it also displays some major shortcomings in the depth of the strategic complexity displayed.
The complete picture is much more complex, and certainly the picture painted is one important aspect (one amongst very many, dozens that are equally as important, and a few that are much more important).
This site is supposed to be about evolution.
Evolution is about survival of replicators in strategic contexts.
Even if one accepts a fully causal reality (as Wolfram does) Wolfram demonstrates that such a reality attains many aspects of maximal computational complexity, and becomes unpredictable (though still causal).
I strongly suspect that the fundamental levels of reality are actually stochastic, and simply deliver a close approximation to causal at the levels we are able to observe, which delivers a very different sort of reality, where the possibility of real choice, real freedom exists (rather than Dennett’s hidden lottery form).
Getting back to evolution and replicators more directly, we have two major domains of replications that most evolutionists are now aware of, genetic and mimetic. It seems that there may in fact be an infinitely recursive set of such replicator spaces available at higher levels of abstraction, that are not memes as such, but exist in a different dimensional structure, that in our reality requires genes to deliver an environment where memes can flourish, and memes to deliver an environment for the new replicator. Leaving that thought hanging for the present, lets go back to what historically drives human evolution.
In a sense, evolution is about differential survival, and about in another sense it is about efficiency of energy utilisation.
Hunter gatherers required about 1 million square meters per person of land area. The technology was rather inefficient at converting sunlight into human beings, and it did work after its fashion.
We have gone through many strategic and technological forms, with aspects of our technology on an exponential increase. Some very few people have had some awareness of this extremely complex set of environments and nested contexts of evolution.
We can currently develop systems that allow a reasonably high standard of living from under 1,000 square meters of sunlight (using efficient solar collectors and robotics).
Currently we have a technological form that is dominated by market exchange, rather than any sort of overall picture of efficient conversion of energy to human security and freedom.
Markets were an effective tool for coordination in an age of genuine scarcity of most resources (as noted by Smith and Hayek and others), but as technology has developed to the point of being able to deliver a rapidly exponentially expanding set of abundant goods and services, the scarcity based values of markets and exchange actually become the single greatest threat to the security of every one of us – even those oligarchs at the top.
Absolute security is a myth, and we can do a lot better than we are.
Absolute freedom is a myth, and again, we can delivery far greater practical sets of choices to everyone than are currently available. (One always has the freedom to end one’s existence in a sense, and that seems to be the most limited form of freedom. Freedom in any meaningful sense seems to require a reasonable probability of continued existence – and that technology now seems to be available.)
We either leave our scarcity based paradigm of money and markets behind, and adopt a paradigm that is based in universal abundance, or we have a very low probability of survival (as individuals or as a species) – that much is abundantly clear.
We have the technology to make distributed manufacturing, and distributed high fidelity trust networks a reality. These things do not require hierarchy or central control. Individuals use context sensitive heuristics to grant authority to those in their trust networks depending upon context, and these cascades of trust and information flow, can deliver very effective and efficient decision making.
Full automation of manufacturing and service delivery is the key. People can do any aspect of the process they want to, and if they don’t want to, then the automatics can take over and function at a useful level of efficiency (even if not quite so efficient as the best of humanity).
Information and technology universally available, through trust networks, in near real time (millisecond delays).
Technically, such systems are not difficult.
Socially, in a context of market based values, trying to create profit, they are impossible.
The issue of our age is not reforming markets or money.
The issue of our age is using distributed automation and communication to make markets and money a redundant paradigm, of historical interest only.
Elites tend to be conservative, in the sense that they became elite by being successful in the existing context. They tend to rely on things that have worked in the past.
As failures start to mount in complex systems it is always possible to make a reasonable case that it is some part of the complex system that is at fault, rather than the paradigmatic base of the system as a whole.
Yet the logic is clear.
The answers are the same. It works if one assumes causality (as per Aristotle, Wolfram et al) or one assumes stochasticism (as per Rumi, Heisenberg, myself et al) [Rachel Garden’s universal logic is an intermediary paradigm that also appears to deliver the same outcome].
I see no stable or safe way to continue using markets as a dominant paradigm of value, with the necessary consequence of continued poverty for the mass of humanity.
We really do seem to be approaching something of a binary – where it really is one of those very rare all or nothing situations at a major paradigm level – and not simply at a quantum or neuronal level.
If any of us want a reasonable probability of living a very long time with reasonable levels of security and freedom, then we must be able to deliver that to everyone – no exceptions. And there is a test of reasonableness in here.