We Culture

Blog of Collective Intelligence 2003-2015

What is the “new“ in a new we-culture?

It seems to me that part of generating stability is getting individuals to consider their self interest on a sufficiently long timespan that they see clearly that our own self interest contains a large component of the interests of all others. Life extension, or the reasonably probable expectation of life extension is part of it.

Another part is recognising the reality that all major advances in the complexity of living systems are characterised by new levels of cooperation stabilised by attendant strategies to prevent cheating. In this view, the evolution of global cooperation is the natural next step in evolution.

Another part is recognising that markets value scarcity and not abundance. In times of real scarcity (most of human history) markets made good sense. Now we have the technical ability to produce all the essential goods and services at a level of universal abundance, but that would drop their market value to zero, and collapse the economic system. It is profoundly disturbing to realise that the elimination of poverty would collapse the market based economic system that most people equate with value. In a very real sense money is a useful myth, nothing more. Our security demands that we go beyond market values, and move to valuing individual life, and individual liberty above all else (part of life and liberty is having a thriving and abundant ecosystem within which to exist).

[followed by]

Hi George,

Understand your confusion.

I packed that last sentence a little too dense.

What I meant was that if we take a big enough perspective on what valuing individual life, and individual liberty might mean, then it leads us to value the ecosystems that support us, and the diversity of life we see around us, as something to treasure for the opportunity it provides, for what is liberty worth in a sterile environment.

And I get that even this probably still takes too many shortcuts to be immediately apparent to many.

The Maori language of New Zealand has a word – Kaitiakitanga – which is kind of like guardianship, and like stewardship, and expresses our fundamental interconnection and duty of care. I don’t agree with a lot of Maori culture, but that idea I find very powerful, and a direct outcome of my own in-depth investigations into security, longevity and freedom. The only real security comes from universal abundance, universal security.

In the longest term view, there is little difference between self and other. If we care for self, then that care of self demands of us a care for others.

I see danger in a focus on community over self.

I see power in community arising out of a recognition of self in other (and these words, this language, is inadequate to express the concepts in my mind).

I see that the terms “commons” is often used to impose a tyranny of the majority onto a minority, every bit as much as our economic system imposes a tyranny of a minority on the majority.

In the sense that community flows naturally from rational self interest, of individuals cooperating for their mutual benefit, then I support it. In so far as the idea of the common good is used to restrict any in the interests of a subset, then it is a danger. And we all need to demonstrate reasonable care for the lives and liberties of all others.

[followed by]

Hi George

I see in practice today, in the politics being expressed in the country I live in (New Zealand), the term “commons” being used by a significant section of the political left (mostly within the Green movement), as a justification for the imposition of rules.

In a sense I can acknowledge the need for change, as the levels of behaviour being expressed do not work. And in another sense I see that the strategies being imposed are very much just more of the same, but with a different “twist”. And as such offer no real change, no real freedom.

I have spent a long time in the details of fisheries management in this country. The most popular recreational fish here is a thing called snapper (Pagrus auratus). In the vicinity of our largest city (Auckland) there is about 10,000 tons (16 million individual snapper) caught each year, currently split about 50/50 between commercial and recreational. This is very close to the sustainable limit. The fishery is in rebuild, from a crash caused by extreme commercial exploitation over 40 years ago. We introduced a Quota Management System (QMS) into commercial fisheries in 1986 (I first attended meetings discussing the idea in 1980). For the most part the QMS has worked, and the fishery has been recovering, and it has now reached a level of abundance where it is quite easy for recreational fishers to catch fish. Now we have hit a new problem, the disjunct between expectation and reality.

We have about a million people who go fishing at least once a year within that region. Some of them go fishing over 100 times
a year. We used to have a recreational bag limit of 30 snapper, and that has been reduced over time and is now at 7 fish, with a minimum size of 30cm (increased from 27). Public perception is gradually changing, but not fast enough to meet reality. The reality, from the numbers, is that if everyone who goes fishing (not everyone in the population, just the subset of fishers) were to take their bag limit every year, then the bag limit would be 8 fish per year.

There is a huge industry selling people fishing gear, vessels, bait, sonar, GPS, ….. that would not exist if people actually got how much fish a reasonable take actually is. People don’t get the impact of numbers of people.
What was stable in my father’s time when there were less than 100,000 fishers, and no GPS or sonar to allow them to find rocks and holes every time with consistency, and what is stable now, with 10 times that many fishers and even a pure novice can go straight to the best fishing grounds every time, to an accuracy of a few meters, is very different. The impact on fish is enormous.

So it is a really tricky position I find myself in, as president of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council. Many people expect me to be an advocate for the rights of recreational fishers, and I am. But in the eyes of most that means advocating for larger bag limits, and that I cannot do. Even if we eliminated commercial fishing completely (meaning that snapper would only be available to those who caught it, and not to those who wanted to buy it), then the bag limit would only be 16 per year, meaning those who get their bag limit every trip could only do two trips per year – if everyone who fished were to take their bag limit in a year.

The only way bag limits work, is because there is a distribution of catches that mean most people only catch zero or one fish in a year, so that a few can catch a lot. Even if we reduced the recreational bag limit to one fish per person per day, it would not constrain the recreational take to within the available limits as the fishery rebuilds to target biomass, and target abundance levels. Yet people are not willing to accept that yet.

We actually have the technology that everyone could easily take their limit, but not at 7 per day, at 8 per year. But not many people are willing to hear that yet.

We could quite easily develop enhancement technologies, but that is not really an option within a market based system, as markets tend to drive wages down, not up, reducing the ability of average people to participate. Inflation gives the illusion of wealth, and some technologies (particularly information technologies) really are getting cheaper and more available, even as others (land and housing) become less affordable.

The whole system is too much “smoke and mirrors” in the interests of a select few. Distractions to keep people from considering real issues.

We can deliver universal abundance to everyone, but not within a market based set of values.
Markets will always tend to destroy abundance.
Most of the laws in most jurisdictions are more about the creation of scarcity than anything else. Consider copyright and patent laws. Consider the laws around capital creation and acquisition. Consider the public health and public safety laws, and what their actual market economic impact really is.

Real liberty is not something our systems are tuned to deliver or to handle.
Most people live out their lives within the prisons of unquestioned cultural constraints.
Entire industries are devoted to reinforcing those constraints.

Very few people have ever really considered what freedom might be, let alone experimented with it.

Very few have ever questioned or understood what market value is, and how it shapes thought and action, and what else might be available and useful, even Marx did not get out of that constraint, he simply worked within it in a very real sense.

What is freedom – really ? ? ?

How willing are people to really consider and explore that vast uncertainty beyond the cultural illusion of “truth”?

[After thought on Fisheries Management:

In terms of fisheries management, we could change the systems, to rather than record weight of fish only, to record numbers of fish below minimum legal size, and to add them back in at the minimum weight at legal size, and require commercial and recreational fishers to land and record every fish caught, unless they could demonstrate reasonable proof of the likely survival of a released fish.

This would impose a real set of incentives to catch only fish of the desired size, and not to use technologies that caught and killed vast amounts of small fish.
Removing restrictions on landing fish under minimum size limits and putting in place counting of undersized fish is entirely possible with today’s technologies for video surveillance.

In recreational terms, if the recreational right were expressed as a function of the resident population and their distance from the management zone. So that say those who had their place of residence within 1km of the water would get an allocation 30% above average, with the distribution decreasing with distance such that those more than 100km away had only 10% of the average, and those over 2,000km away got zero, then every indivdual would get a specific tradeable allocation.
People could choose to give their allocation either to individuals or to pools with specific rules around their allocation, they could make such arrangements for periods of up to say 10 years. Some pools might be available to genuine enthusiasts at no charge, some might be available to subsistence users at no charge, and others might be available for a fee, some portion of which fee might go towards fisheries management and some portion returned to the individual or some other nominated group (like an NGO or fisheries body or whatever).
Developing such a system with the technology available today is a relatively trivial exercise in database technology – only just over 5 million people in the primary dataset, plus perhaps a million or so tourist fishers. And it would require some real changes in thinking, and would contain some real issues. Punishment of cheating would need to be a matter of removal of all benefit gained by all individuals involved, plus say an extra 50%, and not just the matter of a fixed fine.

And that is only a step on the path to sustainability.

The path to delivery of real abundance requires of us that we go beyond markets as a measure of value.
Markets can only ever value universal abundance of anything at zero, which is an entirely antithetical outcome when one is looking at incentive structures for abundance.]

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
This entry was posted in Our Future, Philosophy, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s