Will global warming, automation, wealth inequality, in the future lead to a dystopian Authoritarian populist Eco-fascism/eco-socialism and or even societal collapse or will it all instead lead to a sustainable post-growth, Post -capitalist world?
[ 1/8/20 ]
In so far as the question is valid and sensible, it comes down in part to the choices we make, each and every one of us.
Probably the single most important choice any one of us can make is the one that allows us to question “Truth” at any and all levels; and that rapidly becomes very complex and has many dangers if not done responsibly.
It now seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that both we as individuals, and the reality within which we exist, are complex beyond the ability of any computational system to understand in detail; and thus we must all have subconscious systems that simplify reality and ourselves and each other down to something that we can make some sort of sense of.
That does not mean that what we experience is what is actually present.
That idea can take a bit of getting used to, and if taken too far leads to system failure; and to a certain degree it is essential and healthy.
And one needs to accept that the ancient cultural and biological systems are ancient for reasons – at some level, for some set of reasons we may only be vaguely conscious of, they did in fact work at surviving through time in the contexts that they encountered.
So what is new?
Why should we think of questioning them at all?
We have created new ways of thinking and acting that are fundamentally changing some aspects of being, and we are creating new levels of complexity, and all new levels of complexity demand new levels of cooperation if they are to survive (the math and logic of that is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt). And so it gets really complex and personal as well as societal.
We need many more people to start to understand that the sort of value that markets measure, exchange value, has an inbuilt scarcity component, that means that anything abundant but necessary has zero value. Air is the obvious example. It has zero market value, but anyone who thinks it is not important should try for a few minutes to live without it (make sure you have friends around you if you actually try that – and ensure you ask them to save you once you go unconscious).
Market value (money) gives a very distorted measure of what is actually important in reality. It is a useful proxy for value more generally only in a very limited subset of reality, and in the presence of automated technology that subset is growing exponentially smaller, and the distortions of perceived value grow exponentially larger.
And that poses multiple levels of risk to us all, as many very complex and currently essential systems are embedded in that market based framework.
Designing, developing, testing and implementing replacement sets of systems is difficult and essential – and there is no inherent market based incentive for it to happen. One needs to actually value life and liberty over money to be able to make the necessary choices.
There are many levels at which one can approach such a topic, and they all share some degrees of commonality, in that what is survivable is based in cooperation and demands responsibility from all for maintaining such boundaries as are actually necessary in any particular context (and necessary boundaries are often very context sensitive, often in ways that legal or ethical systems fail to appreciate). No legal system can ever be an exact match to the actually necessary boundaries in all real situations, and all should be some reasonable approximation in some sets of situations.
So it is a deeply complex situation we find ourselves in, many levels of complexity and responsibility present simultaneously.
There are no simple answers – we are way beyond that.
And there are some simple values and responsibilities that we can all return to when we encounter difficult situations – the values of individual sapient life and liberty, and the responsibilities to maintain the social and ecological and physical conditions that allow such complexity to exist.
And all such considerations must contain uncertainties (if they don’t, then they are overly simplistic and no longer appropriate).
And all real and reasonable and responsible expressions of liberty must result in diversity; and we must each respect such diversity, however unusual and uncomfortable it may seem to us.
And there are always uncertainties around reasonableness and responsibility and we must have ways of responsibly approaching and challenging those.
So the cognitive and sense-making complexity can be very deep in some contexts; and depth does not necessarily trump breadth, as at every level of understanding and abstraction one is faced with a host of infinities and uncertainties; and someone who has explored further at a lower order of abstraction may have actually found a valuable solution to a problem that exists only at that level, and not at any higher/deeper level. Just because one can do 12th order differential calculus does not make one a competent martial artist.
Reality does in fact seem to be complex beyond our ability to appreciate in detail. Certain degrees of humility and respect and awe seem to be entirely appropriate responses.
And the logical, systemic reality does in fact seem to be that all levels of complexity demand levels of cooperation if they are to survive – and that may find expression in terms like love, respect, tolerance, acceptance; at the same time as it demands of each of us things like responsibility, effort, duty.
And we are all limited and fallible human beings. Making mistakes is allowed and encouraged, cheating deliberately at any level is not; distinguishing between those is often extremely difficult and uncertain.
To the degree that we each accept and practice the above, to the best of our limited abilities, then to that degree we can create a future where all get to experience reasonable degrees of security and freedom. Market based values, in and of their own incentive structures, cannot take us there; reality seems to be demanding something more of us if we are to survive.