Those who are mindful are beginning to realize that only an entirely
new operating system can prevent the collapse of civilization. However,
to date, no one has presented such a system. This presentation outlines
a system that has the potential to serve as a viable replacement for
the current paradigm.
The following sentence appeared at the end of this article: "Growth is dead. Let’s make the most of it. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
This is a good time to go back and review several items that were posted on this site over the last four years. At the time they were posted, they may have not appeared as compelling as they do today. Let's not waste this crisis.
the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think
tank that Gell-Mann had helped set up in his capacity as a director of
the MacArthur Foundation, founding director Gus Speth and others have
argued that global sustainability is possible only if human society
undergoes at least six fundamental transitions within a very few
1. A demographic transition to a roughly stable world population.
2. A technological transition to a minimal environmental impact per person.
3. An economic transition to a world in which serious
attempts are made to charge the real costs of goods and services --
including environmental costs -- so that there are incentives for the
world economy to live off nature's "income" rather than depleting its
4. A social transition to a broader sharing of that income,
along with increased opportunities for nondestructive employment for
the poor families of the world.
5. An institutional transition to a set of supranational
alliances that facilitate a global attack on global problems and allow
various aspects of policy to be integrated with one another.
6. An informational transition to a world in which
scientific research, education, and global monitoring allow large
numbers of people to understand the nature of the challenges they face.
The trick, of course, is to get from here to there without one of
Cowan's Class A global catastrophes. And if we're to have any hope of
doing that, said Gell-Mann, the study of complex adaptive systems is
clearly critical. Understanding these six fundamental transitions
means understanding economic, social, and political forces that are
deeply intertwined and mutually dependent upon one another. You can't
just look at each piece of the problem individually, as has been done
in the past, and hope to describe the behavior of the system as a
whole. The only way to do it is to look at the world as a strongly
interconnected system -- even if the models are crude.
But more than that, said Gell-Mann, the trick in getting from here
to there is to make sure that "there" is a world worth living in. A
sustainable human society could easily be some Orwellian dystopia
characterized by rigid control and narrow, confined lives for almost
everyone in it. What it should be is a society that is
adaptable, robust, and resilient to lesser disasters, that can learn
from mistakes, that isn't static, but allows for growth in the quality
of human life instead of just the quantity of it. [p.351]
original universities in the middle ages were simply collections of
teachers who attracted students because they had something to offer.
They were the marketplace of ideas, located all over town, where people
could shop around for the kinds of ideas and learning which made sense
to them. By contrast, the isolated and over-administered university of
today kills the variety and intensity of the different ideas at the
university and also limits the student's opportunity to shop for
ideas. [Page 232]
might the company of the future look like? Lawrence Summers, a former
Treasury secretary who is now president of Harvard University, suggests
in the latest Harvard Business Review that the American research
university (ie, Harvard and its few peers) might be a model. He does
not mean that firms should set up their own "universities" -- although
plenty, from Motorola to McDonald's, have done that. Instead, they
should adopt the research university's fluid and decentralised approach
to creativity and hierarchy. "If you look at the organisations in the
economy where the greatest value is being added," argues Mr. Summers,
"they are increasingly the organisations that share the values and
characteristics of universities."
you answer the title question, you should be aware of a few key facts.
I heartily recommend that you take Chris Martenson's Crash Course.
It may cause you to have doubts that the current system will deliver.
This is not new information. However, Chris has done an outstanding
job of presenting the information.
After you have watched and digested the Crash Course come back
here. I have known that we have a sustainability problem for a number
of years. (The problem has been written about comprehensively for at
least 50 years.) All of my thinking has centered around coming up with
a way to live that sets a new course. Most ideas that are
tossed about these days will only help at the margins. Most, if not
all, institutions that exist today are only positioned to help at the
margins. They are not able to effect meaningful change and
really serve only as a balm for the ill-informed and those who want to
delude themselves. (If you are interested in a deeper understanding of
the problem, read this article.)
Freedom is the most important ingredient to a happy and healthy life in
my opinion. (Freedom, of course, has to be balanced by responsibility.) Therefore, freedom is my "measuring stick."
Ask yourself whether you have tangible assets or whether you have
paper assets? If your system provides only -- or mainly -- paper
assets it will not provide freedom in the long run.
Ask yourself whether your system is flexible enough to handle
global climate change? Will you be stuck with a living environment
that may end up beneath the surface of the oceans? Losing most of your
assets in the rising seas is not freedom.
Will you be stuck in a community that you have outgrown? Freedom is not having to listen to those who are not well developed.
In an age of ever increasing energy prices, will you have the resources to heat and cool your home?
Is debt the cornerstone of your system and your balance sheet?
Debt is not freedom. Indeed, it is probably the most insidious
component of any system.
Does your system provide a quality living and working environment
to all participants? It should. Our freedom is contingent upon the
happiness and healthiness of all.
Does your environment promote stimulating intellectual discussions? Freedom is the offspring of such discussions.
Will your system leave something for future generations? Does your
freedom come at the expense of others -- now and in the future?
Does your system provide plenty of leisure time or does it sap so
much energy from you that you plop yourself down in front of the TV
when you get home from work?
The system that currently dominates our culture does not provide
any of the above freedoms. The institutions that exist today do not
provide any solutions. Maybe it is time to explore other options.
have no alternatives to the models of corporate capitalism, social
democratic or Soviet socialism, or technocratic "fascism with a smiling
face." The popularity of this view is largely due to the fact that
little effort has been made to study the feasibility of entirely new
social [and financial] models and to experiment with them."
We actually don't have to give up or adopt any particular system.
We simply need to be creative about rearranging the furniture on the
deck. Fromm was one of the first to integrate several disciplines as
he explains in the introduction to The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
He realized that this was necessary in order to comprehensively explore
the subject matter in the book. We are doing the same here.
Integrating several components of life that for hundreds of years have
been separate. And, integrating them in a way that is necessary in
order to live comprehensively.
Can we "rearrange the furniture" in a way that gets our footprint
below one (two?) and improves our quality of life at the same time? Is it
time to come up with a way of living that provides the freedom that is
so lacking in the current system? A structure that divides work
into meaningful components? A structure that integrates shelter, food,
education, work, and leisure? Real sustainable development?
have described this integration over the years in various posts.
Although it has evolved and will evolve in the future, the concept is
Capital from members/patrons is used to build pedestrian-only campuses around the world and as working capital.
Living quarters will be approximately 500 s.f. with separate gourmet kitchens and dining areas dispersed throughout each campus.
Those who build and operate the campuses are independent
contractors with rolling quarter-long contracts. These contractors
The entire campus will be a classroom at all times as we should all continue to learn as we live.
On-site gardens and orchards will provide fresh fruit and produce to the extent possible.
Reservations will be based on seniority. Those who reserve and
occupy specific living quarters will have options to reserve those
living quarters in the future.
Members/patrons will draw down their membership accounts as they
utilize/occupy the properties. They can deposit additional membership
funds at any time. So long as funds to cover a stay have been on
deposit for at least a year in advance of the commencement of any
reservation period, members can reserve one or more living quarters.
If there is a sufficient amount of cash in the working capital
account, members can opt to withdraw all or some of the funds in their
Please note that this can serve as a comprehensive alternative to the current carbon offset schemes.
It is important for those with savings to recognize that our lifestyles will likely contract in the future. This does not have to be unpalatable. To the contrary, it can be invigorating. Those who want to store their wealth may be amenable to the idea that it is better to preserve their principle rather than to expect a return over and above their principle.
One cannot expect everyone to shift immediately into more sustainable ways of living. However, those with the capital need to realize that assets with sustainable "footprints" represent a more secure place to store wealth than non-sustainable assets represented by almost all of our current infrastructure -- offices, large homes, sprawling subdivisions, most restaurants, most retail, etc.
The physical campus described above represents a sustainable footprint. It also represents an environment where participants are continually researching, learning, and adapting to the new reality of contraction rather than expansion. The future must focus on the expansion of minds.
This will be easier to launch with the endorsement/participation of an established institution. Does this institution exist?
In light of the recent attacks in London, I think that it is important to get a more in-depth perspective to understand how we got to this point. I believe that the following excerpts from Consilience can be an aid:
All movements tend to extremes, which is approximately where we are today. The exuberant self-realization that ran from romanticism to modernism has given rise now to philosophical postmodernism (often called post-structuralism, especially in its more political and sociological expressions). Postmodernism is the ultimate polar antithesis of the Enlightenment. The difference between the two extremes can be roughly expressed as follows: Enlightenment thinkers believe we can know everything, and radical postmodernists believe we can know nothing. [p.40]
Complexity is what interests scientists in the end, not simplicity. Reductionism is the way to understand it. The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science. [p.54]
Scientist as a rule do not discover in order to know but rather, as the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead observed, they know in order to discover. [p.56]
To be highly successful the scientist must be confident enough to steer for blue water, abandoning sight of land for a while. He value risk for its own sake. He keeps in mind that the footnotes of forgotten treatises are strewn with the names of the gifted but timid. If on the other hand he chooses, like the vast majority of his colleagues, to hug the coast, he must be fortunate enough to possess what I like to define as optimum intelligence for normal science: bright enough to see what needs to be done but not so bright as to suffer boredom doing it. [p. 58]
Although seemingly chimerical at times, no intellectual vision is more important and daunting than that of objective truth based on scientific understanding. Or more venerable. Argued at length in Greek philosophy, it took modern form in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment hope that science would find the laws governing all physical existence. Thus empowered, the savants believed, we could clear away the debris of millennia, including all myths and false cosmologies that encumber humanity's self-image. The Enlightenment dream faded before the allure of Romanticism; but, even more important, science could not deliver in the domain most crucial to its promise, the physical basis of mind. People are innate romantics, they desperately need myth and dogma, and scientists could not explain why people have this need. [p. 61]
...The mindscape is now under active exploration but still largely unmapped. Scientific discourse, the focus of logical positivism, comprises the most complex of mental operations, and the brain is a messy place at best even when handling the most elementary of ideas. Scientists themselves do not think in straight lines. They contrive concepts, evidence, relevance, connections, and analysis as they go along, parsing it all into fragments and in no particular order. Herbert Simon, a Nobelist who has devoted part of his career to the subject, says of the complexity of concept formation: "What chiefly characterizes creative thinking from more mundane forms are (i) willingness to accept vaguely defined problem statements and gradually structure them, (ii) continuing preoccupation with problems over a considerable period of time, and (iii) extensive background knowledge in relevant and potentially relevant areas."
To put it in a nutshell: knowledge, obsession, daring. The creative process is an opaque mix. [p. 64]
...young scientists have the best ideas and, more important, the most time. [p.69]
Scientists have been charged with conquering cancer, genetic disease, and viral infection, all of which are cellular disorders, and they are massively funded to accomplish these tasks. They know roughly the way to reach the goals demanded by the public, and they will not fail. Science, like art, and as always through history, follows patronage. [p.93]
The key is to educate the public so that they can understand the macro problems and shift their focus from reaction to preventative pro-action.
Belief in the intrinsic unity of knowledge -- the reality of the labyrinth -- rides ultimately on the hypothesis that every mental process has a physical grounding and is consistent with the natural sciences. The mind is supremely important to the consilience program for a reason both elementary and disturbingly profound: Everything that we know and can ever know about existence is created there.
The loftier forms of such reflection and belief may seem at first to be the proper domain of philosophy, not science. But history shows that logic launched from introspection alone lacks thrust, can travel only so far, and usually heads in the wrong direction. Much of the history of modern philosophy, from Descartes and Kant forward, consists of failed models of the brain. The shortcoming is not the fault of the philosophers, who have doggedly pushed their methods to the limit, but a straightforward consequence of the biological evolution of the brain. All that has been learned empirically about evolution in general and mental processes in particular suggest that the brain is a machine assembled not to understand itself, but to survive. Because these two ends are basically different, the mind unaided by factual knowledge from science sees the world only in little pieces. It throws a spotlight on those portions of the world it must know in order to live to the next day, and surrenders the rest to darkness. For thousands of generations people lived and reproduced with no need to know how the machinery of the brain works. Myth and self-deception, tribal identity and ritual, more than objective truth, gave them the adaptive edge. That is why even today people know more about their automobiles that they do about their own minds -- and why the fundamental explanation of mind is an empirical rather than a philosophical or religious quest. It requires a journey into the brain's interior darkness with preconceptions left behind. The ships that brought us here are to be left scuttled and burning at the shore. [p.96]
Epigenesis, originally a biological concept, means the development of an organism under the joint influence of heredity and environment. Epigenetic rules, to summarize very briefly my account in the previous two chapters, are innate operations in the sensory system and brain....Typically emotion-driven, epigenetic rules in all categories of behavior direct the individual toward those relatively quick and accurate responses most likely to ensure survival and reproduction. But they leave open the potential generation of an immense array of cultural variations and combinations. Sometimes, especially in complex societies, they no longer contribute to health and well-being. The behavior they direct can go awry and militate against the best interests of the individual society. [p. 193]
At this point my imagined analysts, by plumbing the irrational in human affairs, will have traced an Ariadne's thread of causal explanation from historical phenomena to the brain sciences and genetics; hence they will have bridged the divide between the social and natural sciences. Such is the optimistic forecast shared nowadays by a small number of scholars on both sides of the divide. It is opposed by at least an equal number of critics who find it philosophically flawed, or if not flawed at least technically too difficult ever to achieve. All my instincts tell me it will happen. If the union can be achieved, the social sciences will span a wider scale of time and space and harvest an abundance of new ideas. Union is the best way for the social sciences to gain in predictive power. [.193]
The world economy is a ship speeding through uncharted waters strewn with dangerous shoals. The esteem that economists enjoy arises not so much from their record of successes as from the fact that business and government have nowhere else to turn. [p.198]
Both the known and the unknown, the two worlds of our ancestors, nourish the human spirit. Their muses, science and the arts, whisper: Follow us, explore, find out. [p.233]
The life of the Kalahari band, optimally comprising fifty to seventy members, is intensely communal and cooperative. Because the group must move several times a year with all their possessions on their backs, individuals accumulate few material goods not essential to survival.
Ownership is limited to an individual's clothing, a man's weapons and implements and a woman's household goods. The band's territory and all its assets are not owned individually but communally, by the whole band. [p.235]
We are all still primitives compared to what we might become. Hunter-gatherers and college-educated urbanites alike are aware of fewer than one in a thousand of the kinds of organisms -- plants, animals, and microorganisms -- that sustain the ecosystems around them. They know very little about the real biological and physical forces that create air, water, and soil. Even the most able naturalist can trace no more than a faint outline of an ecosystem to which he has devoted a lifetime of study. [p.236]
The empiricist view in contrast [to transcendental thinking], searching for an origin of ethical reasoning that can be objectively studied, reverses the chain of causation. The individual is seen as predisposed biologically to make certain choices. By cultural evolution some of the choices are hardened into precepts, then laws, and if the predisposition or coercion is strong enough, a belief in the command of God or the natural order of the universe. The general empiricist principle takes this form: Strong innate feeling and historical experience cause certain actions to be preferred; we have experienced them, and weighed their consequences, and agree to conform with codes that express them, and suffer punishment for their violation. The empiricist view concedes that moral codes are devised to conform to some drives of human nature and to suppress others. Ought is not the translation of human nature but of the public will, which can be made increasingly wise and stable through the understanding of the needs and pitfalls of human nature. It recognizes that the strength of commitment can wane as a result of new knowledge and experience, and behavior that was once prohibited freed. It also recognizes that for the same reason new moral codes may need to be devised, with the potential in time of being made sacred. [p.250]
...Most [of those who are investigating the same] agree that ethical codes have arisen by evolution through the interplay of biology and culture. In a sense they are reviving the idea of moral sentiments developed in the eighteenth century by the British empiricists Frances Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith.
...The primary origin of the moral instincts is the dynamic relation between cooperation and defection. [p.251]
And the pace can be confidently predicted: Change will come slowly, across generations, because old beliefs die hard even when demonstrably false. [p.256]
Successful religions typically begin as cults, which then increase in power and inclusiveness until they achieve tolerance outside the circle of believers. At the core of each religion is a creation myth, which explains how the world began and how the chosen people -- those subscibing to the belief system -- arrived at its center. There is often a mystery, a set of secret instructions and formulas available only to hierophants who have worked their way to a higher state of enlightenment. [p.256]
The understanding and control of life is another source of religious power. Doctrine draws on the same creative springs as science and the arts, its aim being the extraction of order from the mysteries of the material world. To explain the meaning of life it spins mythic narratives of the tribal history, populating the cosmos with protective spirits and gods. The existence of the supernatural, if accepted, testifies to the existence of that other world so desperately desired.
Religion is also empowered mightily by its principal ally, tribalism. The shamans and priests implore us, in somber cadence, Trust in the sacred rituals, become part of the immortal force, you are one of us. As your life unfolds, each step has mystic significance that we who love you will mark with a solemn rite of passage, the last to be performed when you enter that second world free of pain and fear.
If the religious mythos did not exist in a culture, it would be quickly invented, and in fact it has been everywhere, thousands of times through history. Such inevitability is the mark of instinctual behavior in any species. That is, even when learned, it is guided toward certain states by emotion-driven rules of mental development. To call religion instinctive is not to suppose any particular part of its mythos is untrue, only that its sources run deeper than ordinary habit and are in fact hereditary, urged into birth through biases in mental development encoded in the genes.
I have argued in previous chapters that such biases are to be expected as a usual consequence of the brain's genetic evolution. The logic applies to religious behavior, with the added twist of tribalism. There is a hereditary selection advantage to membership in a powerful group united by devout belief and purpose. Even when individuals subordinate themselves and risk death in common cause, their genes are more likely to be transmitted to the next generation than are those of competing groups who lack equivalent resolve. [p.257]
There is a certain amount of irony in this position in that those who are fundamentally religious are forced to disagree with the conclusion because it is contrary to dogma and doctrine.
The symbol-forming human mind, however, never stays satisfied with raw apish feeling in any emotional realm. It strives to build cultures that are maximally rewarding in every dimension. In religion there is ritual and prayer to contact the supreme being directly, consolation from coreligionists to soften otherwise unbearable grief, explanations of the unexplainable, and the oceanic sense of communion with the larger whole that otherwise surpasses understanding.
Communion is the key, and hope rising from it eternal; out of the dark night of the soul there is the prospect of a spiritual journey to the light. For a special few the journey can be taken in this life. The mind reflects in certain ways in order to reach ever higher levels of enlightenment until finally, when no further progress is possible, it enters a mystical union with the whole. Within the great religions, such enlightenment is expressed by the Hindu samadhi, Buddhist Zen satori, Sufi fana, Taoist wu-wei, and Pentecostal Christian rebirth. Something like it is also experienced by hallucinating preliterate shamans. What all these celebrants evidently feel (as I once felt to some degree as a reborn evangelical) is hard to put into words, but Willa Cather came as close as possible in a single sentence. "That is happiness," her fictional narrator says in My Antonia, "to be dissolved into something complete and great."
Of course that is happiness, to find the godhead, or to enter the wholeness of Nature, or otherwise to grasp and hold on to something ineffable, beautiful, and eternal. Millions seek it. They feel otherwise lost, adrift in a life without meaning....They enter established religions established religions, succumb to cults, dabble in New Age nostrums.... [p.260]
Why not -- at least for some -- have a cult of knowledge dedicated to the elimination of doctrine and dogma?
For many the urge to believe in transcendental existence and immortality is overpowering. Transcendentalism, especially when reinforced by religious faith, is psychically full and rich; it feels somehow right. In comparison empiricism seems sterile and inadequate. In the quest for ultimate meaning, the transcendentalist route is much easier to follow. That is why, even as empiricism is winning the mind, transcendentalism continues to win the heart. Science has always defeated religious dogma point by point when the two have conflicted. But to no avail. In the United States there are fifteen million Southern Baptists, the largest denomination favoring literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, but only five thousand members of the American Humanist Association, the leading organization devoted to secular and deistic humanism. [p.261]
Interestingly enough, personality typologies indicate that the American population is evenly split between Thinkers and Feelers. One wonders why the Feelers seem to dominate. I suppose it is a result of the Culture being structured around consumption and consumption is driven -- once you get past basic needs -- by feeling. So even those who are Thinkers, rely on the Feeling Culture for their livelihoods.
I posted this today because I believe that the response to 9/11 was driven almost entirely by feelers, rather than thinkers. There was a lesson to be learned and it behooves us to be aware of it in the aftermath of the latest bombings in London.
In my opinion, this book is important enough in these times to be placed in the public domain -- maybe with some sort of voluntary compensation by readers to the author.
This post touches on almost every category that I have formerly established. I am sometimes asked what I do. Maybe I should start referring questioners to the About area of this blog. I'm trying to find our why we as a society do not live up to our potential. The fragility of our present circumstance requires some integral and creative answers. We have to create a system that competes with the prevailing system.
Why a "private" hedge club? A public entity requires the oversight of the government. Why anyone would want this government involved in their financial affairs is a mystery to me. Fiscal irresponsibility aside, the government has a "leader" who less than 15 years ago was placed on a board -- through a favor from the well-connected -- and proceeded to distinguish himself during his tenure by telling dirty jokes.
Why a private "hedge" club? Most people have put all their marbles -- literally and figuratively -- in a system that is fraught with corruption and inefficiency. They need to realize that there can be a way to "hedge" the current system. The fragility of the current system is there -- for us all to see -- but yet we remain in a state of denial. (To be up front, this also permits playing the "fear card." A tool that unfortunately seems to be required in order to get the general public's attention.)
Why a private hedge "club"? A private club seems to me to be the only entity that can encompass all of the elements necessary to create a new institution. Education, a physical infrastructure, lack of dogma and doctrine, and longevity. The term "society" works as well but makes it harder to define the rules that are necessary for sustainability.
Primary Hedge Areas
One of the dominant -- read thought-killing -- characteristics of the current system is debt. Debt is all about possessing. The irony is that so long as debt is involved, the system -- not the bank per se -- possesses you. This is unhealthy and one reason -- in my opinion -- for the high levels of depression. (This reminds me of the standard Christian response with respect to the poor: They will always be with us. Baaad Attitude!) If one wants to hedge the current system, one would create an institution in which "banking" is equity only.
As has been pointed out in earlier posts, our education is primarily geared towards producing certified individuals, rather than critical-thinking individuals. Another dominant characteristic of the education system is that it is concerned with turning out folks who work/manipulate behind a desk -- or in a hotel lobby with a laptop -- rather than doing something that is hands-on. In the new global economy, your desk job will soon be done somewhere around the world where the costs are lower. Why would anyone want to sit behind a desk for 8+ hours anyway? The hedge club will commit resources to shaping an education system that includes hands-on activity and real-world projects.
Opportunity, not charity or propaganda. The current system's tax laws either encourage charitable giving or cause (special interest) giving. A hedge club can be structured to encourage members to quit giving to charity and propaganda. Pay your taxes and use the balance to build up equity in a system that builds and provides opportunity, rather than tears down and gives hand-outs.
Anyone who thinks the current system is not sustainable should contact me and make a commitment to help get the ball rolling. Hit the "Email Me" button (above left) and contact me. We can change the course of history this afternoon.
This Middle-Eastern focus also appears on the radio. The news this morning was primarily about the Middle-East. Thomas Friedman has an obvious explanation* for why we are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on one region of the world.
(*Reg. required, make sure you check or uncheck the appropriate boxes if you do not want to be the focus of email marketing.)
Article making a case that the market is over-priced. Although the article was published in 2002, those who have an interest can see by this data that P/E ratios are about the same now as they were in 2002. I'll make more connections with this information in a later post.
Integral Journal selects Robert Reich as Secretary of Brevity and Common Sense. In a recent Marketplace (NPR) commentary, Reich masterfully describes how Social Security works. I"ll provide the link when it becomes available.