Monday 14 July 2008

Conquering the future

Quite a few of the posts have dealt with the general pitfalls of a society as it moves through its evolutionary phases; all against the background of the Otoom mind model.

How about the positive side - what general dynamics would have to be in place for a society to be successful in the long run?

Perhaps we should start by defining what we mean by 'success'. Systems - complex, dynamic systems - have the propensity to cluster around affinitive elements (at whatever scale) and in doing so increase their complexity further.

Complexity means greater variance, and greater variance entails a higher chance of potentially diverse subsystems. At the same time such an evolution - and it is an evolution in a very real sense - demands an ever increasing size, a wider resource base, and a commensurate infrastructure to accommodate transport and communication. So far so familiar.

The dynamics of our evolving system need to answer the resultant, and sometimes conflicting, demands. For example, a more extensive infrastructure requires improved channels of communication, but that needs resources which are now not available for the rest. Or, a greater diversity heightens the potential for new ideas, but unless organised into a productive whole the plans may never make it past their inception.

Another factor to be considered is the process of evolution itself. When observing past civilisations one is struck by the sheer number of potentially disastrous events. How many times could things have turned out quite differently, and how many times did certain situations result in an advance?

Hence a higher complexity also means a greater range of possibilities and therefore the chance of failure.

A sophisticated society that has the capacity for mastering its environment to allow, say, space travel and the use of the laws of physics to a high degree, and at the same time can take care of its citizens in the face of disease and catastrophes, needs to be able to organise itself to a significant extent.

The salient word here is 'itself'. Nature, that nature which makes for forests, oceans, and even basically agrarian societies, that 'natural' system will have been left behind long ago. The interdependent system of a forest or an ocean does not possess the set of checks and balances which takes care of its elements. Power stations and cities have no functional equivalent in a traditional setting to provide the self-adjusting influences that underpinned the survival of the old earth for millennia.

In other words, an advanced civilisation has to take control of its own destiny - for better or worse. And 'better' must be an option once the potential for disaster or success has fallen into our hands and our hands only.

Let's start with the big picture. Our society of the future will have to administer and control its environment. Not the environment obsessed by contemporary green groups but a space that offers the options to sustain its human activity systems in terms of those systems' needs and potentials - nothing more, and certainly nothing less. To carry out this task its information-gathering processes need to be comprehensive, transparent, and objective. As a consequence the administration, in fact the governance, requires a degree of intelligence that is at once curious as well as discriminatory. Since the implementation of governance spans activities across the entire spectrum of human abilities, that range in itself has to be synchronised with the range inherent in society. Just as there are skilled and not so skilled professions, there is an equally diverse range of citizens, and both sides should complement each other.

Since the higher on the ladder of decision-making we go the greater the demands on skill levels, the all-important feedback loop should take account of these differences. Under the conventional perspective this would be seen as discriminatory and undemocratic. In an advanced sustainable system however it becomes a prerequisite for stability. While the optionality of the system needs to be tested constantly - essential for survival - it must be done so with the ultimate outcome in mind; an outcome that aligns with the overall optionality of its host.

Currently the notion of equality is a well-worn leitmotiv. Yet in practice it never works and considering the historical timelines our current ideals are merely a blip on the evolutionary landscape. It starts with the young when some respond to speech and others require a belting. It continues in later life when some can handle an opportunity while others cause grief. Whether our lip service to equality proves to be as lasting as past systems without it, some of which survived for centuries and even millennia, remains to be seen. That alone should give pause for reflection. What would be the determinant is a selection process favouring ability, regardless of other, more superficial factors. At the same time, resulting averages linkable to some kind of categorisation are inevitable; let them be what they may.

In tandem with a comprehensive assessment of one's environment - not excluding anything possibly deemed inconvenient - comes a similar analysis of its customs and morals. Both of them have already undergone considerable changes throughout history, and mostly for the better. Regardless of what religion, cultural tradition, or pressure groups try to tell us, what is eventually allowed or disallowed is a function of ascertainable reality - and not a conjured spectre of some phantasts. It also becomes a function of maturity, an often ill-used expression but meant here in its most profound sense. Such a degree of maturity means knowing and understanding what is necessary and what is not, what is possible and what is not, and above all, who is able to decide and who is not.

Overall, so far we haven't achieved it yet. Who knows which part of the human race will manage that goal, if any at all.

As far as the complexity and pervasive impact on our planet is concerned, the time for readjustment along the above lines is now. Not every portion of humanity will have the wherewithal for such an exercise, and whoever proves adequate will truly inherit the earth.

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