[ 1/4/20 ]
And it is complex – we are all complex beyond our ability to appreciate in detail, but we love to make simple generalisations.
It may be true that often people who are effective at gaining power, who claim an urge to save, are more driven by an urge to power; but that is a very different thing.
Most of us have the urge to save those we love.
Some of us manage to generalise that to a urge to include everyone else.
If anyone has the intention of living a very long time, then it is in their interests to make the world as a whole as safe a place as possible, as it increases the probability of their own survival. Thus an urge to “save humanity” can come from an urge to live on indefinitely.
For me, the idea of indefinite life extension has been a realistic possibility since completing 3rd year biochemistry at university in 1974. So in the intervening years a lot of my thinking has been around identifying threats and threat mitigation strategies. That has extended to all levels of systems, political, ethical, technological, biological, conceptual, logical, mathematical.
It is clear to me that the very idea of ruling is itself one of the major threats.
Rulers can be a very good idea when rapid societal response is required in response to an urgent threat. At all other times they are extremely dangerous.
As the current covid-19 crisis is demonstrating, economic “efficiency” leads to systemic “fragility”. The short term incentives of market pressures lead to a concentration of power into few hands, with the vast majority living on the edge of survival.
The very idea of money, of value in exchange, is changing as we develop systems capable of automating production to meet all reasonable needs. Markets require scarcity to deliver value. Anything universally abundant has no market value (by definition) – like the air we breath, essential, but of no market value.
When air was the only important thing universally available, this known problem wasn’t a major thing.
Now that we have the ability to produce fully automated systems, the failure of markets to map well to human value is a big thing.
We live in times of exponential change.
This covid-19 experience is clearly demonstrating that economic incentives are not a good match to human needs.
We need to have individual sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological) as our highest value, followed by the freedom of such individuals to do what they reasonably and responsibly choose.
The freedom to do anything is destructive.
All levels of systems require boundaries to sustain form. The existence of complexity is predicated on boundaries.
And we are the most complex things we know of – at least 15 levels of systems, each with their complex and context sensitive boundaries.
Freedom needs to be sensitive to all of those boundaries, and it also needs an ability to test the boundaries from time to time (just to make sure they haven’t changed significantly).
We also need to appreciate that the evolution of new levels of complexity is almost always the result of the emergence of a new level of cooperation. So when one is looking at things as complex as us it is much more accurate to say that our survival is all about cooperation than it is to say that our survival is about competition. And both are always and necessarily present – we are deeply complex.
So no – the urge to save humanity can be (and at this point in human history most often is) a matter of long term self interest.
When one has automated systems available, the easiest way to ensure that nobody takes what you have, is to ensure that they already have all that they reasonably need.
The easiest way to be safe is to ensure that everyone is safe. With automated systems of production, the doing of it is relatively easy – changing the way people think is much more difficult.
For generations people have been taught the lie that evolution is all about competition – because that was politically expedient.
Now it is time to get real, and teach the overwhelming power of cooperation in evolution, and in our success as a species.