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.
Fooled By Randomness is a book that will give you a different -- from the universally accepted -- perspective of Wall Street. A few excerpts:
I do not dispute that arguments should be simplified to their maximum potential; but people often confuse complex ideas that cannot be simplified into a media-friendly statement as symptomatic of a confused mind. [p.37]
For an idea, age is beauty.... [p.31]
He [veteran trader Marty O'Connell] calls this the firehose effect. He had observed that firemen with much downtime who talk to each other for too long come to agree on many things that an outside, impartial observer, would find ludicrous (they develop political ideas that are very similar). Psychologists give it a fancier name, but my friend Marty has no training in clinical psychology. [p.73]
[Karl] Popper's falsificationism is intimately connected to the notion of an open society. An open society is one in which no permanent truth is held to exist; this would allow counterideas to emerge. [p.108]
I found in the behavioral literature at least 40 damning examples of such acute biases. Below is the account of a well-known test, and an embarrassing one for the medical profession. The following quiz was given to medical doctors (which I borrowed from the excellent Deborah Bennett's Randomness).
A test of a disease presents a rate of 5% false positives. The disease strikes 1/1,000 of the population. People are tested at random, regardless of whether or not they are suspected of having a disease. A patient's test is positive. What is the probability of the patient being stricken with the disease.
Most doctors answered 95%, simply taking into account the fact that the test has a 95% accuracy rate. The answer is the conditional probability that the patient is sick and the test shows it -- close to 2 %. Less than one in five professionals got it right. [p.159]
This is sort of a bad news, goods news thing. The bad news is that the professionals had a less than 20% success rate. The good news is that the answer is not that difficult and by intervening in the system in strategic places, we may go a long way towards dramatically reducing health care costs.
The growth orientation suggested by radical-planning formulations was obviously very different from the traditional pro-growth perspectives associated with the earlier types of planning generated by the profession prior to the growth management era. Radical planning proposed that people ought to be freed from a "constrained, bounded, technological way of thinking" that reflects, among other things, a preoccupation with "maximum material productivity." Radical planning suggested that people's well-being was based on something other than materialistic and technological foundations, and questioned the worth of unending economic growth in a manner illustrated by the following citation:
Human development consists of social and economic development and should be contrasted to the present emphasis on economic growth....This desire for growth, sold to the people by the promise of economic well-being, has proven a hollow victory: the emphasis on economic growth has resulted in the alienation of individuals from themselves and from each other...and from their envionment....Some level of economic well-being is necessary for people to exercise choice between survival and risk, but once attained, continued economic growth seems only to prevent further development of the individual.
It is interesting to note that the above excerpt appeared in a 1973 planning journal. Talk about an idea not getting any traction.
More from Growth Management...:
If we are unable to end the extermination of other species on ethical grounds, then perhaps we can be intelligent enough to recognize that such killing represents a threat to our own species and cease on self-serving anthropocentric grounds. [p.27]
...in my lifetime people have burned 97.5 percent of all the oil that has ever been burned. That's an important statistic. We have to face the fact that we are not going to find a technological substitute for the high-density energy that comes out of a gas or oil well. It is thermodynamically implausible.
But I think that the environmental movement is, in many ways, more complicated than the anti-Vietnam war or civil rights movement. Wehave to deal with the aspect of human nature that wants stuff, wants comfort and security. For some time I think we were naïve and thought these problems could be solved easily.
RJ: What about the people who say that it's important to create alternatives that are, to the degree possible, outside the system? Should people sacrifice involvement in a political movement to create a model of something else?
WJ: We do need those good examples, and people have to work in the area of their passion. When I look at people I start with the question, "Have they joined the fight?" If they have, then you have to be careful in critique, because we don't know enough about what's going to be most effective in the long run. If someone wants to be the good example, then fine. But I think they should be doing it out of intrinsic interest, not out of sense of nobility.
RJ: What about, "We need to spend more time preaching to the choir"?
WJ: That's meant to suggest we need to deepen the discussion. The modern environmental movement really began in 1962 with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Before that, environmentalism was mostly about wilderness advocacy, with some focus on soil erosion and water conservation. With those roots in saving wilderness, this new environmental movement lacked the intellectual basis necessary to understand the kinds of problems we face as a consequence of consumerism. Today we have to fight the idea that nature is to be subdued or ignored. In that older view, wilderness was seen as the sacred, and we could afford to allow other parts of the world that served human needs and desires to be profane. Now we realize the planet is seamless and that wilderness is really an artifact of civilization. So, we haven't had a long enough time to deepen the discussion, and that deepening is best done with members of the choir, rather than with people who are just catching on that the planet is in trouble.
A comprehensive institution must recognize the value of each and balance the rewards. In the case of TheInnClub, any cash left at the end of a calendar year is distributed proportionately based on the amount and duration of any member deposit, the amount spent by the consumer, and the amount of any contracts involving the property. For example, assuming three dollars in annual cash flow as of December 31st, a ten dollar member deposit on deposit 365 days of the calendar year, a ten dollar labor/service contract for services performed, and a consumer who spent ten dollars, each party would receive one dollar of the cash flow.
I am curious to know if anyone knows of another operational structure that is similar. Any cooperative arrangement, I suppose. Grain elevator? It should be noted that the Club will not have any employees and that tipping will not be permitted. Service is provided by independent contractors who are effectively partners.
1) Health- High levels of obesity, High costs, Mental health (In one study, over 25 percent of respondents had some form of mental illness)
2) Energy consumption- US is 3% of worldwide population, use 25% of oil
3) High levels of debt
5) Crony capitalism, Special interests
6) Real estate bubble?
7) Many retirements in jeopardy -- market is way overpriced by historical standards
8) Education has shifted from a generalist orientation to a specialist orientation. Corporate investment in higher education is causing conflicts of interest. (See University, Inc.) One could argue that this is one reason why we have so many problems.
9) The list goes on...
It is quite obvious that the dominant system -- let's call it the consumption/possession system -- is not effective in addressing any of these issues. One of the problems is that our current system makes it difficult to be a comprehensive learner. Indeed, we don't seem to have the time, inclination, or education to solve any of these problems -- all of which are related in some form or fashion. So, what is the right problem to solve? In my opinion, it is not that we naturally want to be rampant consumers, go into debt, work 80 hours or more per week per household, and so on. The right problem to solve is coming up with a vision -- and a system to go along with it -- that seems attractive compared to the current model. By the way, spending time and energy on overthrowing the current system is not necessary. Over time it will simply become obsolete and fail as a result of its inefficiency and inability to make people happy. Remember the mental health statistic?
What will replace it? Will it be replaced before this one sucks the life out of our support system?
One clue. It will involve capital, labor, and consumers.
In education the search for consilience is the way to renew the crumbling structure of the liberal arts. During the past thirty years the ideal of the unity of learning, which the Renaissance and Enlightenment bequeathed us, has been largely abandoned....Every college student should be able to answer the following question: What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important for human welfare?
Every public intellectual and political leader should be able to answer that question as well. Already half the legislation coming before the United States Congress contains important scientific and technological components. Most of the issues that vex humanity daily -- ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic poverty, to cite several most persistently before us -- cannot be solved without integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that of the social sciences and humanities. Only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as seen through the lens of ideologies and religious dogmas or commanded by myopic response to the immediate need. Yet the vast majority of our political leaders are trained exclusively in the social sciences and humanities, and have little or no knowledge of the natural sciences. The same is true of the public intellectuals, the columnists, the media interrogators, and think-tank gurus. The best of their analyses are careful and responsible, and sometimes correct, but the substantive base of their wisdom is fragmented and lopsided. [p.12/13]
If I am not mistaken, Jane Jacobs in Dark Age Ahead indicates that this decline in true liberal arts learning started around 100 years ago. This was because large corporations needed specialists, not newly-minted students who questioned authority. The "buying" of universities has been the topic of several recent articles.
...Preferring a search for objective reality over revelation is another way of satisfying religious hunger. It is an endeavor almost as old as civilization and intertwined with traditional religion, but it follows a very different course -- a stoic's creed, an acquired taste, a guidebook to adventure plotted across rough terrain. It aims to save the spirit, not by surrender but by liberation of the human mind. Its [Ionian Enchantment] central tenet, as Einstein knew, is the unification of knowledge. When we have unified enough certain knowledge, we will understand who we are and why we are here. [p. 7]
The strongest appeal of consilience is in the prospect of intellectual adventure and, given even modest success, the value of understanding the human condition with a higher degree of certainty.
Bear with me while I cite an example to illustrate the claim just made. Think of two intersecting lines forming a cross, and picture the four quadrants thus created. Label one quadrant environmental policy, the next ethics, the next biology, and the final one social science.
We already intuitively think of these four domains as closely connected, so that rational inquiry in one informs reasoning in the other three. Yet undeniably each stands apart in the contemporary academic mind. Each has its own practitioners, language, modes of analysis, and standards of validation. The result is confusion.... [p.9]
The time has come to achieve the tour in reality. This is not an idle exercise for the delectation of intellectuals. How wisely policy is chosen will depend on the ease with which the educated public, not just intellectuals and political leaders, can think around these and similar circuits, starting at any point and moving in any direction. [p. 10]
Although it is not directly related, I'd like to make a point. Those in the institutional investment profession have what is called a fiduciary responsibility. They are required to have the best interests of their client in mind at all times. You may also know that we develop through stages of psychological development. One of the most basic is egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric. (Ken Wilber charts the various developmental models in his book Integral Psychology.) Currently, investment managers -- and corporations, for the most part -- are at the ethnocentric stage as their fiduciary responsibility does not extent to the world as a whole. Let us hope that they move towards worldcentric.
Based on the lack of feedback, I am sensing that visitors are having a difficult time grasping the concept that I have attempted to share -- in an organic fashion -- over the past few weeks. I find it exciting and think that those who even partially grasp the concept will be excited too -- even those who have never taken the time to consider a sustainable future for mankind.
I've got to communicate the idea in a more effective way.
Visualize a private golf club. Founding members contribute equity in order to build a golf course. If a member moves or decides that they are no longer interested in golf, they are able to sell their membership for market price or according to some formula. Ok. Now visualize a series of spas/pedestrian villages located around the world. The spas/villages are operated in a way that provides a model for sustainable development. Members build their "contributed" equity through receiving a prorata amount of any revenue that exceeds expenses. Reservations are based on rules that reward seniority and commitment. Just like the equity golf club -- and owning your home -- the capital cost is held steady for members. In other words, there is a hedge against inflation. Unlike an equity golf club, upon exiting, a member's interest is available to other members at cost. This serves to apply the benefits of homeownership to a network of properties rather than just a property or two.
One substantial difference is that the properties are operated by members who are dedicated to life-long learning. This portion of the membership is by invitation only.
It is likely that an initial membership drive will take place in a form that is somewhat similar to a public radio fund-raising drive. Members will make a pledge to fund the capital cost of the first of a series of spas/pedestrian villages. Much like public radio, pledges can be a very modest amount. As mentioned in earlier posts, one additional fund-raising method may be to approach foundations committed to sustainable development.
Private golf club structure. Spa/pedestrian village infrastructure that serves as a retreat, second home, and/or university. Simple, right?
In order to more completely understand the problem of our current "Greater Fool" way of living, it is helpful to review the various posts and related links of this blog. However, for those of you who want a quick answer, I posted the following in my About section this morning:
The development of a response to this condition [why we have failed to develop to our full potential] follows:
(The details may change somewhat as potential members help shape the rules of the club, but this is essentially the form of the institution that has the potential to move us towards a more comprehensive and sustainable lifestyle. As the details are known, the following summary will be updated.)
What the world needs now is an institution that permits us to hedge against the current "Greater Fool" Lifestyle that dominates the culture in inefficient and insidious ways. This lifestyle includes investing in a stock market that is by historical standards considerably overpriced. If history is a guide, many investors can expect to receive little or no income from the stock market. To my knowledge, there is currently no hedge against this Lifestyle.
Below is a description of a private club that can serve as the hedge and the base for meaningful change:
--Rule changes and trustee selection are by "super majority" vote of both equity and membership.
--The design and atmosphere of club properties will be similar to that of a quality resort and spa w/ approximately 350 to 950 square foot apartments.
--Occupancy will be comprised of three components: 1) Guests who pay market rates for services, 2) Club members who utilize the property as a destination residence club at 4% times cost plus expenses that are pro-rated based on all property revenue, 3) Trustee-selected Club members (a.k.a. Fellows) who operate the property on an independent contractor basis and utilize the property as a non-accredited university
--Trustee meetings will be conducted online over a period of 4 or 5 days and members will have access to the entire proceedings whether in writing, audio and/or video.
--There will be two accounts within the club. One will be for properties in developed environments and the other will be for properties in developing environments. The club and others like it are intended to replace institutions like the debt-oriented World Bank and to also serve as a complement to charitable giving.
--Member's ability to reserve apartments at club properties will be subject to: 1) Guest reservations of up to 50% of capacity, 2) initial commitment date, and 3) ongoing commitment (through fulfilling pledges to "developing" and "developed" capital accounts and to actual occupancy)
This entire process of developing an answer has been very organic. However, I sense that there is now enough detail to start presenting the concept to individuals and institutions who may be interested in hedging the current "lifestyle" and/or being a part of a new institution that provides a model for sustainable development.
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.
Several that I've come across in the last day or two:
Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future--There is so much being written these days that has the potential, if acted upon, to improve our quality of life. For that matter, there was much written in the past that, if acted upon, could have improved the quality of life for all beings -- including the human variety. The book cites Goethe and Lao Tzu, among others. My sense is that any substantial development that takes place in the near future will be in a leisure setting and not in the workplace or in our contemporary education domains. The workplace and our educational institutions are primarily product and profit driven. This tends to stunt growth. (If we were all independent agents, there would be no need for profit. We would only need income.)
Therefore, we need to develop a leisure environment that promotes learning and development -- preferably one that is operated by independent agents.
If we could agree that for six months we would not ask How?, something in our lives, our institutions, and our culture might shift for the better. It would force us to engage in conversations about why we do what we do, as individuals and as institutions. It would create the space for longer discussions about purpose, about what is worth doing. It would refocus our attention on deciding what is the right question, rather than what is the right answer.
...We might put aside our wish for safety and instead view our life as a purpose-filled experiment whose intention is more for learning than for achieving and more for relationship than for power, speed, or efficiency. [p. 3, I think that efficiency can be improved as well.]
Giving priority to what matters is the path of risk and adventure, but I also believe that the institutions and culture that surround us are waiting for us to transform them into a fuller expression of our own desires. [p. 7]
Let me tell you my own experience eating the French way. I went to France a few years ago for about three weeks. I stayed in Paris, and then in Chartres. I could only afford to eat in little cafes and bistros, but I vowed to eat only my favorite foods and go back only to restuarants that were to die for. I ate my favorites - chocolate made fresh every day, chocolate mousse, home made ice cream, omelettes, pizza with goat cheese and cream sauce, quiche of every kind - you name it I ate it. I also had a glass of wine with dinner every night. We snacked almost all day in between meals on fresh fruit. All of the food was fresh - no chemical additives and nothing packed in pastic bags. We also walked every morning before breakfast and every day after lunch.
When I got home and got on the scale I was shocked to see I had lost 25 pounds, and two dress sizes. I had to laugh because we complained the first few days about how long it took us to get served, and how long each meal took. After the second day we were so into really tasting the food we shared, we shut up and stopped hurrying through each meal.
It took less than a week for me to get back into my harried life - eating on the run, shoving food in my mouth while I talked on a conference call and simultaneously completed and emailed reports. I was back to the fast lane and fast food take out.
When I got this book it took me back to France, and back to why the French have less than an 11% obesity rate (and ours is 30% and climbing.) The French simply eat the freshest food in season, they enjoy what they eat and they walk every where!