Laurie asked: What question or prayer would you contemplate on a labyrinth walk?
For me, the question would be the same one I have been asking since 1974:
What sort of social, political and technical institutions do we need to provide an environment that delivers minimum risk and maximum freedom?
How do we organise ourselves such that given the ability to live on indefinitely, we actually have a reasonable probability of doing so, and doing so with what we would consider reasonable degrees of freedom?
Those questions have dominated my thinking since completing my undergraduate training in biochemistry in 1974, and realising that from a cells perspective, each cell can be thought of as the original cell (each division giving 2 essentially the same). Thus the default mode of life for cells must be indefinite, even if most cells that have ever existed have died for some reason – every cell alive today is part of an unbroken chain of life some 4 billion years old.
Once we understand that in sufficient detail, then indefinite life extension for us must be an option.
In a very real sense, it is essential that we achieve such life extension if we want life like us to persist at all.
It needs to be in our own personal self interest to look after the long term future of our environment.
Our present systems are based in scarcity, in exploitation of the natural world, and have a very short term view of the future (quarterly profit statements trump long term ecological impacts).
Without significant change, quite quickly, we have a very low probability of survival long term. We probably have less than 20 years to achieve such change.
Fortunately, such change does actually seem both possible and probable to me.
There doesn’t appear to be any single “right way” of going forward, but there do seem to be many ways that have quite short futures.
The idea that evolution and social organisation is all about competition is one of those.
The idea that competition is at the heart of evolution is one of the greatest mistakes of the history of scientific thought, and it is understandable in a sense.
It is far more accurate to say that the evolution of complexity is predicated on the emergence and stabilisation of new levels of cooperation; but coming to that awareness requires a deep understanding of the complexity and the strategies of evolution; and all our ancestors had were the simple beginnings of such an understanding.
Thus it is far more accurate to say that being human is all about being cooperative, even though we can all compete if the situation demands it.
It is our ability to cooperate at whole new levels that makes all of our social and technical structures possible.
Our future is predicated on us understanding this, and adopting a new level of cooperation.
There is no stable way to continue our current competitive market based systems. If we try, our extinction is guaranteed.
The difficult part of the emergence of new levels cooperation is always finding sufficient mechanisms to prevent them being invaded and overrun by cheating strategies.
In our current social systems it is possible to characterise most of our banking, finance, political and legal systems as cheating strategies on the cooperative that is human society. And it is important to get that it is most, and not all. Each does contribute important and vital aspects, and each is overloaded with stuff that is not simply unneccessary but dangerous.
So my walk, my contemplation, would be around finding effective ways to transition from competition to cooperation, from market slavery to cooperative freedom, from tribalism to membership of the cooperative of sapient awareness. How to use the ability of automated systems to deliver all the essentials of a comfortable life to every individual, at the same time as we ensure that all individuals are aware of and responsive to their responsibilities in both social and ecological contexts.
Complex like us can only survive in cooperative contexts.
If we allow competitive environments to dominate, then the complexity of our technology and social systems will be destroyed, that is a mathematical inevitability.
There must always be a tension between freedom and responsibility, between creative change and the maintenance of the order of the past. That is an eternal aspect of reality, and the more we can each internalise and acknowledge that, and create both respect for individuals differences and tollerance of diversity, the greater our probability of survival.
How to create that message in a way that it spreads, and makes a real difference in reality?