I wrote this essay mainly to organise thoughts in my head, and to share them with others.
I understand your two articles were “opinion pieces”, and I note your agreement with Henje Richter, that history is our story about what happened, our way of making sense of things.
You suggested to Kingshuk that he “write the argument the other way so people can compare both”, so I will take that advice.
I say your thesis, and your story, miss the most important facts.
The world is replete with facts, but the actual relationships between facts is rarely what most think.
It seems that this reality that we live in is a very complex open system.
Certainly there are some aspects that are cyclic, other aspects that are linear, other aspects that are exponential, others that are fractal, others that are chaotic and defy all attempts at prediction or analysis.
The serenity prayer asks for the wisdom to distinguish that which may be changed and that which may not. I prefer a variation that asks for the intuition to choose where and when one can most powerfully apply what limited resources we have to achieve the greatest security and freedom for all (seeing self in a social and ecological context).
To me it is clear that most people are in a set of paradigm traps. I will deal with one of them here.
We must all accept assumptions at the start of our lives. Culture and genetics are vast distillations of various domains of wisdom over deep time. We have no option in the first instance but to accept these as our starting points. And we each have the ability to question for ourselves.
It seems clear to me that the greatest trap at present is that of the value measure delivered by markets. When most things were genuinely scarce, markets performed many valuable functions, some very complex, including information signals as per von Hayek, and many levels of allocations and incentive in human action. There was a real association between free markets are human freedom. And that is changing.
We live in a time of exponential technological advances.
Computer technology is doubling in price performance every year (actually about 10 months and shrinking). The major impacts thus far have been in the realms of information processing (now far greater than anything Hayek’s markets are capable of), and automation is starting to move into other areas, manufacturing and service areas. There is no technical barrier to universal abundance.
Our expanding populations have not run out of resources because our technology is expanding on a far greater exponential than our population, allowing us to do more with less. Schumaker was partly right, in that security does reside in highly distributed systems, but he was wrong about us running out of resources. We are not short of either mass or energy, and we are very rapidly developing ever more efficient ways of using both. We are rapidly approaching a time where technology can deliver freedom and security to all, and therein lies the problem.
Most current thinking uses money as a measure of value.
Money is a market measure of value.
Anything universally abundant in a market has no value. (If you doubt that, just think of oxygen in the air, arguably the single most valuable commodity to any human being, yet of no market value.)
Therefore, universal abundance has no market value, yet it is what most people want and need if they are to have real choice in how they self actualise.
That simple fact is the single greatest danger of our time, and it has nothing and everything to do with war — it is the basis of an entirely different paradigm, a different way of organising facts, a different set of stories.
When one takes a big picture, strategic view of evolution, it is clear that all major advances in the complexity of living systems are the result of new levels of cooperation.
And Axelrod showed clearly that raw cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation and overrun by “cheating” strategies. So to be stable, cooperation must be accompanied by attendant strategies that prevent cheating.
This has happened many times in evolution. At the atomic level, at the molecular level leading to cells, then within and between cells at several levels leading to complex bodies with brains, then between bodies leading eventually to societies, and many levels of cultural cooperation.
We now have the opportunity to take the next step on that evolutionary exponential developmental path, to global cooperation and beyond.
Elinor Ostrom and her team did a marvellous job of cataloguing many sets of useful attendant strategies, and the operating parameters needed to deliver stability in each case. Wolfram et al have pointed to an infinite set of classes of such strategic systems.
Such explorations seem to bear out the ancient adage that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and it requires of each and every one of us a willingness to act, when our own individual intuitive thresholds of confidence are crossed.
War is not a necessity, and it is certainly a possibility.
Peace, prosperity, security and freedom are also possibilities.
Nothing is certain, except that our choices will influence what happens – each and every one of us.
Pointing the finger at Arch Duke Ferdinand is pure fiction in a sense, however real it may look — so many other factors had to be present also.
We each make a difference, in every conversation we have, every action we take.
I am confident, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that indefinite life extension and universal freedom and prosperity are possible. I am more confident now than at any time in the previous 42 years since that possibility became a logical reality for me, and not just a piece of wishful thinking. And it is still far from a certain thing. It could still, very easily, end in misery and death for many if not all!
As Marianne Williamson wrote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Time for us all to start exploring some of that power.
We are fundamentally a species of cooperative social ape. And we can all compete hard if the context requires it. Everything depends upon context.
None of us can survive alone.
As a cooperating planet of billions, anything is possible.
Digital technology allows us to go beyond the memory limits of our brains, and shatter “Dunbar’s number” that limits stable human social networks to about 150, and allow a single interconnected set of networks comprising some 7 billion and growing.
It really isn’t that difficult a problem technically.
The real issues are social and political (a branch of social in my understanding).
The age of money must end, if the age of humanity is to continue.