How do we create a good future?
You ask “How do we create a good future?”
To me, that is the most profound question possible, and one I have been consciously actively pursuing for over 40 years (and less consciously for a couple of decades prior to that).
So many deep questions implicit in that sentence:
What is good?
How much influence can we have on aspects of our future?
What are we?
That latter question is deep.
The old adage – know thyself – seems to open a potentially infinite path of successive approximation – we do in fact seem to contain that level of complexity.
My own explorations started in the realms of biology and spread across the realms of logic, computation, strategy and complexity.
It seems that every human individual embodies some 20 levels of complex systems, and every level has many instances of different systems.
At best we can work at some sort of useful set of heuristic approximations to such complexity.
It seems that individual life, and their responsible freedom are primary.
It seems that every one of us can most powerfully work on ourselves, on the integrity of our reasoning, on the acceptance of diversity, on the building of trust (not naive trust, but stable trust, with consequences if broken), on accepting failure as a necessary consequence of exploration of the unknown.
It seems that our conscious (rational) awareness is a tiny, yet important, part of the vast subconscious sets of embodied wisdom that are our biological and cultural heritage and being.
The fact that we are in exponentially changing times, when the lessons of the past are not necessarily relevant to our changing present and future, introduces profound uncertainty to our existence in ways not present since the end of the ice age.
When one looks at evolution from a systems perspective, it is clear that new levels of complexity are the result of new levels of cooperation.
Competition tends to reduce complexity.
Thus one can make a strong argument that the emergence of entities like ourselves is predicated on cooperation.
And part of being human is the “hero’s journey”, being willing and able to brave the unknown, the chaotic, the unexplored and to return with value for society generally.
Understanding computational theory indicates that there are an infinite class of possible schema available, yet reality often places demands upon us to make decisions in very finite times. This forces us to, at every level, make simplifying assumptions that contain uncertainties that can be profound in changing times.
In this context, centralising systems has profound dangers.
Security is maintained my having massive redundancy, by having multiple simultaneous explorations of options available.
Part of that process has to have stochastic elements to allow us to overcome the biases of experts who are constrained by their lessons from the past, and are not necessarily open to the possibilities present in our changing times.
One fundamental aspect of having a future is survival.
To have a future one must have existence.
A future is predicated on survival.
Evolution is all about survival.
In the past, life has produced massive diversity and that which survived what was encountered got to leave the next generation.
We now have an option to go beyond that simple model, and to maintain existence for all.
We are rapidly approaching an age where fully automated systems can produce all the essentials of survival, not simply food, water, housing and technology, but also all the medical interventions to restore optimal function to any damaged or degraded systems within us.
This offers the possibility of new levels of freedom, and also demands new levels of responsibility.
All complex systems have boundaries necessary for their survival.
Morality and social cooperation and ecologically responsible action are such necessary conditions for the sorts of life that we are.
Valuing the individual and their liberty, in social and ecological contexts, seems to be an essential part of “good”.
I agree in a sense, that often reality imposes time constraints such that we need to use heuristic simplifications to make decisions.
Some of those heuristics are encoded in our genetics, some encoded in our culture.
We need such shortcuts to survive.
I am all for the use of reason and science when time allows, and we need to show respect for the embodied wisdom present from genetics and culture. And we need to be able to override those when we have strong evidence to do so.
My view is basically humanist – individual life followed by individual liberty, both demanding responsible action in ecological and social contexts.
In my understanding, the conscience you write of is one of the heuristic systems I write of, and it is a very complex multi level phenomena.
I agree with you that there are many out there with political agendas that are anti human who attempt to use ecology as an anti-human tool, and it is not that for me.
For me, ecology is simply accepting that we are part of and reliant upon the evolved biological systems around us in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
Like you, I rebel against tyrants and nihilists alike.
I am very confident that if we are to have any significant chance of surviving, then the individual has to have primacy, and that must be in responsible ecological and social contexts.
I am not for one moment suggesting that we drop our own importance.
I have been explicit about values:
1/ individual sapient life; and
2/ individual liberty.
And I am being explicitly clear that both our life and our liberty require us to be responsible in social and ecological contexts, and limit what some might naively call free choices, to those that actually allow us a reasonable probability of survival in the long term.
As someone who has been studying us for over 40 years, I see our conscience as a systemic aspect of our being, and like all others it seems to be based in heuristics at various levels.
It is a very powerful thing, and I strongly advise using it.
And it is just one of many very powerful aspects of being human.
We need all of those aspects – intuitive, conscience, rational, habitual, cultural; and none are necessarily applicable to our exponentially changing future.
Making those judgments has to be at least as much art as science – we have no other option.
And to me it is important to accept that each and every one of us are “many things”, and which one gets to express is very much a function of the context encountered.
Being very conscious of the contexts we create, all levels, is important – existentially so.
I make the strong claim that the native incentive structure of markets and money is no longer a good fit to that set of needs.
I also make the strong claim that we need to make substantial systemic changes if we want to avoid serious existential level risk.
And having watched people choose death rather than change diet, it is clear that we have not empowered people generally with the sorts of mental tools required to make those changes at the individual level, so there needs to be a deeper set of changes in contexts to enable the levels of security and freedom possible.
There is a profound responsibility present.