All systems evolve in symmetrical ways that are scale independent. This provides a methodological framework to assess a system’s evolutionary situation, its parameters for change and its options when a nonlinear systemic change is triggered. Applied to the current political system it appears a nonlinear change is relatively imminent; perhaps within 20 years. The outcome is almost certain to be binary: extinction or post-scarcity abundance. The system’s current trajectory makes the probability of a bad nonlinear change disturbingly high, especially with the inevitable emergence of artificial general intelligence (AGI). However, the development of augmented knowledge systems for use in ambient knowledge systems indicates a path toward a good nonlinear change. Politically navigating the coming nonlinear change is likely to be the biggest challenge civilization has ever confronted.
My academic career began as an engineering student. During my first year I learned about the emerging digital revolution and had an epiphany. That, within the laws of physics, anything imaginable was possible because everything in the physical world had digital analog. Thus everything was interchangeable in a way previously unimaginable.
While not news to you all now, for me, back then, it raised a vital question, which was:
What would be the most important thing to do digitally?
Living in a politically active time I realized that, eventually, everything is filtered through the political process. This made political science the definitive generalist field where all the threads of our existence are interwoven.
So I changed my major to political science, which led to the writing of a thesis called, “The Free Flow Feedback Portal.” The “free flow feedback” part described what I envisioned as digital communication system — essentially the internet. The “portal” reference was the idea that, once this new medium matured, the amount of time available to ensure it truly benefitted humanity before the window of opportunity closed would be brief.
Shortly thereafter an opportunity arose and I designed the first digital political system for a State constitutional convention. The system incorporated email, conferencing, voting, crowdsourcing, reference archives, and expert services, and is referenced in the seminal book, “Network Nation: Human: Human Communication via Computer.” But then, to my amazement, everything seemed to go dark until the 1990s. Waiting for the Internet to emerge as a public medium was, to say the least, frustrating.
The wait did, however, give me time to think about whether the field of political science was sufficiently robust scientifically for what seemed to be coming technologically. As I started exploring other scientific domains new questions arose in my mind. In particular:
Is the structural organization and operation of human sociopolitical systems really completely distinct from that of all other systems in the cosmos?
And, if not, what symmetries might exist that would be applicable to sociopolitical systems?
Luckily, many areas of science were crystalizing in this direction, which is where we begin.
Individual evolving systems
Let’s start with couple of basics we should all be able to agree upon:
• Only constant in the universe is change
• Equilibrium is a transitory, relativistic illusion
• Evolution is about linear and nonlinear change
• There is good and bad change
• A system that evolves is aging in some manner
• Aging reveals a direction to change
Your life, for example, is an evolving system that changes and ages in a clear direction. Like all other evolving systems, it has an origin or start point. This origin establishes the “initial conditions” that regulate the system’s subsequent evolution by establishing two features:
- A finite lifespan or end point for the age of the system.
- Parameters or boundaries constraining a system’s evolutionary change as it ages
For example, at birth your parameters were set by genetics and the environmental milieu you were born into. Both constrain how you can evolve — physically, mentally and socially — as a system, with your genes setting a maximum age limit.
As we age we push the envelope of these parameters to evolve and mature. Likewise, internally, each individual evolving system pushes its own change forward as it ages.
As your system matures and leads into old age senescence, the accumulated complexity from both internal changes (biology) and external changes (environmental insults) increasingly take their toll on your vitality.
Thus, as with all biological systems, the aging process deteriorates the quality of internal feedback mechanisms that maintain the system’s health. Worse, this deterioration adds still more complexity to the system. The result is a destabilized system.
Destabilization generally has two stages that can oscillate back and forth for a time.
- Criticality, which is a progressive deterioration, as with reduced metabolism, muscle mass, and lung capacity.
- Super-criticality, which is a more chaotic stage where your system becomes frail and increasingly vulnerable to terminal, end of life illness and disease. Eventually, super-criticality leads to a nonlinear transformational change — death.
But here is where things get really interesting because there are different types of nonlinear change. To appreciate this think of death as having a dimension of time connected to it. Thus nonlinear change operates on three distinct levels of time:
- Lower level change reflects various forms of premature death — genetic defect, catastrophic event, or environmental insult — effectively beyond your control.
- Lateral level change, with limited control to delay death, is now more typical through some optimizing action, e.g., medical intervention, medication or lifestyle change.
The clear difference in these two levels is the amount of time before death, but both result in death.
Yet, it is clear that at some point new, novel medical treatments — stem cells, gene therapy, nootropics, man-machine integration, or synthetic biology — will be able to prolong life indefinitely. Such restorative system changes are called amplifying actions.
In effect, amplifying actions reconfigure a system’s structural organization and or its operation. In other words, the complexity destabilizing the old system is reduced or eliminated and the capacity to absorb more complexity is added. The best result is the emergence of a new origin point and a restarting the system’s evolutionary sequence.
The key point here is that only novel amplifying actions lead to the emergence of a higher-level system change. While rare this type of emergent nonlinear transformation is a naturally occurring process and is a complementary counterpoint to linear Darwinian evolution.
In sum —
Birth of an evolving system creates parameters for its evolutionary change and sets a finite lifespan. Each system evolves through a five-stage sequence: emergence, development, maturity, destabilized senescence, and a nonlinear transformation.
An old destabilized system reflects excess complexity that makes it increasingly vulnerable to any internal or external change. The system responds by exploring lateral and higher levels options that might mitigate a nonlinear existential threat. The exploration employs optimizing and or amplifying actions, which effectively constitute temporary “para-organizational” experiments (e.g., hypercycles).
Optimizing actions, however, only seek to exploit or reform an existing system’s operation. As such, these actions are simply a variation on the same type of past actions that led to the destabilizing complexity. But it is exactly the past utility of such actions that holds their appeal as a natural response.
Problem is that nonlinear change is unlike anything the system previously experienced. Thus, inevitably, the nature and rate of internal and external changes exceed the system’s ability to respond adequately, appropriately, and in a timely manner to the increasing complexity. This limits transformational options to the lateral level, and thus eventual death, albeit delayed. In effect, faced with nonlinear change, optimizing actions constitute “evolution’s trap.”
Conversely, the evidence for all new emergent evolving systems holds that amplifying new and novel actions are a prerequisite to exploring higher-level options. Said differently, only novel actions have the potential to reconfigure the organizational structure and operational efficacy of a system sufficient to absorb past complexity and cope with the added complexity in a new milieu to create a new emergent system and restart its evolutionary lifecycle.
Thus, when a nonlinear change is triggered, the dominant type of actions employed during the para-organizational exploration can determine the transformation level elected.
Nested evolving systems
No system exists in isolation. Collectively, the organization of all evolving systems is akin to a Russian doll, with ever smaller dolls “nested” inside larger dolls. You are nested in a city, a country, a planet and solar system, for example.
Together, nested evolving systems act as a co-evolving ecosystem, with each new system emerging from within the most recently evolved larger system. In the nested cosmic ecosystem the largest, base system is obviously the astrophysical system, followed by the biological system, the self-aware brain-mind system, and then our sociopolitical system.
While the scale and lifespan of each individual system varies, the aging sequence of changes pushing each system toward its nonlinear change is the same. However, entropy — the ongoing cosmic conversion of pure hot energy into cold dark matter — is always pulling each individual system toward its nonlinear transformation.
Together, this is analogous to using a tube of toothpaste. The external pressure from the nested ecosystem (you) squeezes the individual system within its internal parameters (e.g., the tube) to push the toothpaste out (e.g., extrude). So, in macroscopic evolutionary terms, these two forces are simultaneously pushing and pulling each individual system, and thus the ecosystem itself, toward nonlinear change.
This is important.
It means all human systems are subject to macroscopic evolutionary forces.
In this context, the parameters of change for the biological system exist within astrophysical system parameters of change (i.e., the environment). Similarly change in the brain-mind exists within the parameters of the biological and astrophysical systems. Thus the parameters of change for sociopolitical system exist within the context of all three prior nested systems.
This nested ecosystem arrangement is also noteworthy because the emergence of each individual evolving system has a common set of features; for example, a new structural organization able cope with still greater complexity, tighter bonding among constituent parts and an acceleration of entropy. However, since entropy ultimately dominates change in all evolving systems, each individual system constitutes an unstable, temporary organizational island. (MIT research now suggests a mathematical scaling ratio for this entropic process.)
The larger point here is that, individually and collectively, all evolving systems in cosmos exhibits a single co-evolving direction — e.g., time, aging sequence, increasing complexity, structural organization and operation, and entropy — to evolutionary change.
In this respect, the evolution and emergence of each new system is akin to an infinite Hegelian dialectical process — thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
Thus, as remarkable as it may seem, the organizational structure and operation of each new emerging system must, effectively, “maximize evolvability” of the cosmos. That is, to emerge as a new system it must self-organize a new structure and operation that will maximize number of new options for subsequent cosmic evolution to continue (at least until entropy terminates the game).
This process of maximizing evolvability is, literally and figuratively, magical. It is also key to understanding our sociopolitical system’s macroscopic evolutionary situation.
Sociopolitical system emergence
Beyond self-interest, governance systems are about taking collective action for tasks beyond the capacity of individuals and small groups. Biology long ago forged two systemic templates for the governance of collective action:
- hardwired sociobiological (e.g., ants and brains)
- interactive social-biological (e.g., primates and minds).
Note that the brain-mind system is what maximizes evolvability of the biological system. Moreover, it integrates both biological templates for collective action:
- Brain — This is a 24/7 hardwired network of systems that continuously collects and combines updated sensory data related to the health and survival of the host to effectively proffer probabilistic status scenarios.
- Mind — When the brain finds important novel scenarios they are forwarded to the conscious mind as alerts. The mind then determines whether the information is sufficient for action to be taken.
- Integration — Evidence is that the mind’s interpretation of these scenarios is dominated more by emotion than rationality. Said differently, while the two systems are integrated, the social-biological mind tends to be in control, though it can be trained to give the more rational sociobiological brain additional control.
Understanding these two systemic templates for collective action and their relationship is important, in part, because the role of language. In this respect, many assume language emerged as a technology for interactive social-biological bonding. But, for early humans, this would have been secondary to the existential need to survive (e.g., hunting, foraging, tool- and fire- making). So, while mating and procreation obviously has a social-biological component, the underlying driver is hardwired sociobiology (i.e., the selfish gene).
The key point is that
we grossly underestimate the importance of hardwired human systems.
Thus, the initial utility of language was most likely for sharing of scenarios — “what if” stories aimed at problem-solving and creativity — impacting survival issues. Said differently, language — as a communication system for collective action — probably emerged as a hardwired sociobiological process and only secondarily as one for social biological exchanges (i.e., scenarios).
Nested sociopolitical system
Simply put, underlying the emergence of our sociopolitical system was a communication system — language — to share collective action scenarios. Inevitably this sharing produced competition over the merits of diverse scenarios bringing an interactive social-biological process into play. The need to compare competing scenarios created the need for a rule system (i.e., laws) to implement and enforce an orderly interactive social process.
Therefore, the origin of a given sociopolitical system is the prevailing communication system. As such it then sets out the sociopolitical system’s lifespan and establishes the rule- and prioritizing- systems as the parameters of change. This is why, historically, every time there has been change in the prevailing communication system there has been a corresponding change in the prevailing sociopolitical system.
But keep in mind that the basic purpose of a rule system is for discerning the merits of competing scenarios. In other words, a rule system is the prerequisite for discerning priorities for collective action.
The point here is that all sociopolitical systems are an evolving “nested system” of subsystems:
- Communication is original and largest base system and reflects hardwired sociobiology
- Rule system is an interactive social biological process to orderly consider competing scenarios
- Prioritizing system (e.g. authoritarian, representative) decides action to be executed.
The historical tendency is to depict these three nested subsystems as a single unified evolving system. However, unbundling them into individual evolving systems provides insight into our contemporary sociopolitical situation. Anthropologically, we can see how each subsystem was internally “upgraded” — amplifying actions — and evolved over the course of civilization.
- Communication system — Just as increasing the magnification of a microscope or telescope facilitates seeing entities and their activity at different scales in greater detail, our prevailing communication system was repeatedly upgraded — speech to writing, to print, to broadcasting, and now online networks. The direction of these four upgrades has been an ongoing growth in the quantity and speed of informational flows to provide more and better access to ever greater, more granular and detailed knowledge about virtually everything.
- Rule system — Akin to how Newtonian, Einsteinian, and quantum physics each advanced our understanding of laws ordering the universe at different scales of activity, our prevailing rule system was repeatedly upgraded — from omniscient and omnipotent supernatural forces, to crass coercion, to arbitrary secular and religious edicts, to the supremacy of law ideal, and now to a relativistic rule of law ideology. So, as the scale and complexity of governance systems grew, the direction of these four upgrades to our prevailing rule system was to institute ever less arbitrary and capricious regimes for enforcing “order.”
- Prioritizing decision system — Initially, small localized tribes were democratically open to all. This was downgraded as the scale and complexity of societies grew and instead our prevailing prioritizing decision system was repeatedly upgraded — from small tribes to secular and religious empires closed to all but a tiny elite, to nation-states with openness limited to elite groups, and now a global system essentially closed to all but representatives of nation-state elites. The direction of these three upgrades has been to increase the number of participants in the prioritizing decision-making process.
Evolution of the Sociopolitical System
Bundled back together these upgrades repeatedly led to changes in the structural organization and operational nature of the prevailing sociopolitical system and indicates a direction to the overall evolution of the system as
toward ever faster communication of and access to more detailed knowledge, less arbitrary and capricious rules, and, excluding downgrade of early tribe model, more participants in prioritizing system.
The result of these upgrades was that the diversity of collective actions evolved and increased dramatically. It does seem odd, however, that the communication and rule systems each had four upgrades, yet there were only three such upgrades to the prioritizing decision process (note Haldane Rule impacting scale and complexity ratio) .
In any case, if we view the evolution of our sociopolitical system as single evolving civilizational system, metaphorically the respective sequential stages of evolutionary change in the operative governance structure are as follows.
- Stage 1 — Emergent childhood
Oral Horizontal Governance — Survival was the core sociopolitical dilemma. Horizontal communication and information flows regulated behavior through gossip and customs, especially myths and rituals. Generally, the political prioritizing process was completely open to all. Thus, survival was the organizing principle, advanced by custom.
- Stage 2 — Adolescent development
Written Hierarchical Governance — The core sociopolitical dilemma for societies based on writing was how to safely and effectively order and operate a large-scale system. Writing bred vertical communication and information flows that led to functionally specialized hierarchical structures. Behavior was regulated by coercion within a closed elite prioritizing process. The organizing principle was hierarchical differentiation, advanced by written languages. This stage introduced written law, helping identify who constituted authority (though did little to regulate behavior since most were illiterate) and the Greek’s reintroduced the democratic ideal for an open prioritizing decision process.
- Stage 3 — Maturity
Printed Legal Governance — The core sociopolitical dilemma for print societies was belonging and preventing tyranny by either a minority or majority from undermining individual rights and economic growth. Print added new vertical and horizontal information flows among individuals and large diverse groups, which led to natural law, contract law, and a belief that “the-law” would suffice to regulate behavior and “perfect” society. Together, the result was republican systems (aka, liberal or representative systems) with limited openness in the prioritizing process. So, the organizing principle was the supremacy of law ideal, advanced by institutionalizing negative freedom (i.e., pre-selected choices) in the prioritizing process.
- Stage 4 — Destabilized senescence
Electronic Relative Governance — With the advent of electronic communication the core sociopolitical dilemma was the gap between democratic ideals and reality of republican systems. While communication and information flows grew increasingly omni-directional, the supremacy of law ideal was deconstructed into an ideology of law. This ideology rationalized a continuation of the limited openness in the prioritizing process to elites with significant economic resources and partisan political careerist interests.
- — Systemic criticality
Vulture Culture — The core sociopolitical dilemma in the broadcast era, now in decline, is self-esteem and why sociopolitical evolution has been arrested. Broadcast communication and information flows are top-down, vertical flows. The regulation of behavior is an ideology of law. But the relativity inherent in the-law led to minimal regulation of governmental behavior, and thus advanced political relativity (i.e., absence of genuine legal accountability). By continuing to limit openness in prioritizing processes, institutionalized negative freedom in republican systems secured elite political cartel interests. Together, this created confusion about real priorities and significantly increased complexity. So the organizing principle is political relativity, advanced by an ideology of law.
- — Frail super-criticality
Virtual Culture — The core sociopolitical dilemma in the era of online networks is about self-actualization and whether the old vulture culture or the emerging virtual culture dominates. Online communication and information flows simultaneously go in all directions to enable virtual organizational structures that can operate with distributed collective intelligence. These new capabilities seriously threaten the rationale for limited openness in republican prioritizing processes. Consequently, an epic struggle is underway that will add incredible complexity to our sociopolitical system and likely push it toward a nonlinear transformation. The organizing principle appears to be autonomous systems, advance by digital technology. But the struggle itself places our collective future up for grabs in a way never before experienced.
Thus, it appears that our sociopolitical system’s evolution has somehow been arrested at republican systems. Of course, republican systems are increasingly experiencing the downside of excess complexity, manifested as widespread confusion about and hostility toward the system generally and its priorities in particular. The result is a destabilized, often chaotic system with an increase in insular fights and struggles as it ages and evolves toward a nonlinear transformation.
While historically technological and economic activities had an independent existence they have now converged into a single dynamic force. This force is now dramatically adding complexity to our sociopolitical system and accelerating the push toward a nonlinear transformation.
Technologically, we know other species used tools (i.e., technologies) before humans emerged, suggesting toolmaking is a sociobiological process. To wit,
if we could rid ourselves of all pride…[and] kept strictly to what the historic and prehistoric periods show us to be the constant characteristic of man…we should not say Homo sapiens but Homo Faber….[It] is the faculty of manufacturing artificial objects, especially tools for making tools. [Drexler]
It is humanity’s unique ability to intentionally and systematically store knowledge in tools that enabled us to lever ourselves up and become the dominant species on the planet. Thus, since the Stone Age, our technologies have evolved, mutated, and multiplied to cover the earth like biological life itself. In paralleling human evolution our tools continually made the supernatural natural and facilitated our management of civilization’s increasing scale and complexity.
Societies progress mainly by creating, assimilating, or adapting [technologies]….Because technological innovation in society is on a whole irreversible, the arrow of time in history is consistent with the arrow of time in physical and biological realms of evolution…[It’s an] evolutionary progression toward more dynamic and autonomous systems…through correspondingly more complex social structures. [Laszlo]
The origin of economics also preceded humans. Indeed, entropy is an economic process. Similarly, all of biology — hardwired sociobiological reproductive drive, predator-prey food-chain, and survival of the ecologically fittest — operates like an economic system.
Modern capitalism, however, is essentially a 17th century innovation. But, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of the market, or as Schumpeter preferred, economic Darwinism in the form of “creative destruction” actually reflect hardwired evolutionary processes. Either way, in the end, capitalism, as an evolving system, is now obsessed with optimizing wealth creation.
Evidence for the convergence of technology and capitalism seems clear. For example, if we measure technological change from the invention of the steam engine to the dawn of space travel, or from the invention of the telegraph to global digital wireless networks, the elapsed time, is only about 200 years out of civilization’s10,000-year journey. In measuring capitalism over the same period, while the global population grew from 1.5 to 7+ billion, global per capita income rose from $700 USD to $7000 USD. The end of the Cold War saw capitalism permeate every corner and aspect of the global environment.
The point is that capitalism evolved by increasing the operational productivity of various activities, especially via technological innovation. Thus, accumulated wealth funds further productivity and technological innovation aimed at greater competitiveness, which leads to creative destruction and more profit to create more wealth. It is an insatiable cyclical process.
In this context, creative destruction only has four key variables:
- Capital — globally abundant, invariably it leads investors to chase better returns (i.e., yield).
- Resources (i.e., food and commodities) — a growing global population consumes ever more, invariably leading to price increases and technological innovation to stabilize costs.
- Labor — rising resource costs and investor pursuit of better yields invariably leads to greater use of cheaper labor markets and technological augmentation.
- Technology — technological augmentation shows investors a path toward better yields, invariably leading to the technological substitution for virtually all labor.
At the same time there are really only three approaches to creating wealth:
- Cash flow — wealth is about baseline productivity — doing things faster, better or cheaper than competitors — which invariably compresses profit margins and makes scale critical.
- Transactional — wealth is about big income spikes from technology or service innovation, but invariably the innovations are converted into commoditized cash-flow businesses.
- Casino — wealth is about financial indexes and algorithms, which invariably leads to momentum and options strategies but primarily benefits algorithmic breadth and speed.
As is apparent, technology is the common element in both creative destruction and wealth creation. This is hardly a surprise since economics, like digital technology, is now fundamentally an information system. In this respect, it is useful to view the Internet as reducing knowledge asymmetries, which disintermediates ever more middlemen in virtually all markets.
More to the point, as in other evolving systems, the invisible hand of capitalism reflects an inherently obsessive (i.e., hardwired) drive to optimize the system’s evolution. Indeed, the rhetoric of ideologues about the rules governing capitalism always reflects this obsession. Yet, as in all evolving systems, inevitably this optimizing increases complexity to the point that it destabilizes the entire economic system.
Case in point, the 2008 financial crisis destabilized the entire global economy, and, in effect, took it from a critical to a super-critical stage at the edge of a nonlinear transformation. Only the optimizing actions of central bankers — pushing the global economy forward by absorbing the excess complexity (i.e., bad debt) and flooding the economy with new money (i.e., quantitative easing) thereby pulling demand forward in time — prevented this nonlinear transformation.
Emergence — Autonomous Technological System
However, this exercise in “financial repression” only brought a super-critical economic system back to its critical stage.
While this delayed a nonlinear transformation, it is now generating far more complexity in at least three ways and moving the system closer to a nonlinear event.
- Today, the only real return on investable capital is in traditionally risky activities, notably technology. This adds fuel to an already breathtaking rate of technological innovation.
- Adam Smith’s notation that the bias in capitalism is toward monopolistic practices was amplified. So we see huge global pools of money (e.g., state enterprises, sovereign wealth funds) breathing new life into international monopolies. But for these monopolies to succeed they need to dominate cash-flow industries with sufficient scale and market share to withstand serious margin compression. Accomplishing this, ultimately, requires ever more autonomous systems effectively devoid of human labor.
- By creating of trillions of dollars out of thin air overnight — equal to about one year of global GDP — proved money is merely an accounting artifact. That it has little utility beyond an exchange metric in an economic system predicated on scarcity.
Thus, contrary to traditional ideology, the evolution of capitalism is not about supply and demand, buyers versus sellers or even bourgeois versus the proletariat. Rather, it is about optimizing itself through greater wealth creation.
But it is important to keep in mind that, in the end, wealth creation has become a technological arms-race to augment the need for labor with more autonomous systems, which invariably moves us closer to a nonlinear transformational event.
Again, this is not a surprise. Long ago numerous luminaries — from Marx to Murray Bookchin, Peter Drucker to Milton Friedman, Nassim Taleb, Cassidy, Drexler, Kevin Kelly, Peter Diamandis and Kotler, and more — all foresaw this optimizing obsession ultimately leading to some form of “Post-Capitalist” and or “Post-Scarcity” society. That is, a systemic nonlinear transformation.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms it reflects Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That is, technological innovation is an irreversible process underlying and driving capitalism’s macroeconomic growth. Increasingly this innovation detaches civilization’s sociopolitical system from basic collective action tasks toward ever more complex — higher-level — tasks. Similarly, on the microeconomic scale, the inherent deflationary nature of technology increasingly underlies and drives individuals’ ability to detach themselves from basic needs toward the pursuit of ever more complex — higher-level — self-actualizing needs.
Look at the situation this way.
Capitalism and technology were always two sides of the same hardwired, information processing sociobiological coin. It is now a symbiotic relationship reflecting the invisible hand of macroscopic evolution itself. A single, dynamic, self-actualizing force becoming ever more tightly coupled that is now evolving faster than any other human system. Together, like the co-evolving interplay between genetics and phenotypes in biology, their co-evolution has become a force adding excess complexity to the sociopolitical system.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms, this technological-economic dynamic is simultaneously pushing the sociopolitical system internally toward its nonlinear transformation and, as a reflection the nested cosmic ecosystem’s infinite game, pulling itself toward a nonlinear transformation. Said differently, this technological-economic dynamic is accelerating toward an imminent nonlinear birth of an evolving autonomous technological system.
Thus the preeminent question today should be
whether this new system will be a totally hardwired one or will integrate both hardwired and social components?
In Sum -
The sociopolitical system is comprised of three nested subsystems. The communication system reflects a hardwired sociobiological process while the rule system reflects an interactive social biological process. Over the course of civilization, the communication and rule systems have each been upgraded four times. The prioritizing process, however, has only seen three upgrades. This anomaly suggests sociopolitical evolution has been arrested at republican systems.
Since the sociopolitical system is already destabilized, the rapid growth of online communication and information flows is generating an epic cultural struggle. This is adding excess complexity to the system and accelerating its internal push toward a nonlinear transformation.
It is increasingly clear that the capitalist system is in the process of optimizing itself through technological innovation. As a result, this dynamic is adding far more internal complexity to the sociopolitical system and pushing it toward a nonlinear transformation.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms, internal complexity in the sociopolitical system is so destabilized that it is pushing toward a nonlinear transformation. The complexity generated by technological-economic dynamic is still accelerating, and in optimizing wealth creation this dynamic is effectively maximizing the evolvability of technology toward the emergence of an autonomous technological system. As such, this dynamic is pulling the sociopolitical system toward its nonlinear transformation.
Thus, by any measure it appears we are looking at dramatic nonlinear transformational change to the sociopolitical system within an extremely brief period of time. Yet, the stories we are telling each other have zero connection to this extraordinary and precarious evolutionary situation.
Finite sociopolitical system outcomes
Appears that in the next 20 years, as the sociopolitical system approaches its nonlinear transformation, the future of humanity is likely to be determined definitively. What is unclear is whether the complexity destabilizing the sociopolitical system will result in a preponderance of optimizing or amplifying actions. What is unequivocally clear is that humanity’s survival and well-being are inextricably tied to the continued evolution of our sociopolitical system.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms, the three levels of nonlinear transformational options are limited to the following:
Lower-Level: Pandora’s Box
Lower-level options are always grim. If we evolve into any of these options our extinction is likely to be swift.
- Extraterrestrial Event:
The more we learn about the universe, the more we realize it is an exceedingly hostile and violent place. Early earth was repeatedly pummeled by meteors and asteroids and irradiated. Some 65 million years ago a meteor hit, substantially blocking out the sun, and probably led to extinction of dinosaurs. Even now, 10s of thousands of small meteors hit the earth every day.
If any major event — a large meteor, major solar flare, relatively near supernova, random gamma ray burst, or some other cosmic calamity — impacts the earth, life could literally be extinguished in an instant. Yet, the absolute number of possible events must be breathtakingly large. Preempting such an event requires an extraordinary, global scale sociopolitical action — and luck.
- Climate change:
After 40+ years of debate, climate change is now accepted. The bad news is that it is too late for simple lifestyle changes to make a real difference. So, eventually, the focus will shift to planet-scale solutions (e.g., geo-engineering, synthetic biology). Problem is that the range of consequences from action on this scale is virtually impossible to predict. Thus, it is unlikely that any noteworthy action will be taken prior to a truly critical crisis situation arising.
The “good” news is that climate change is likely to continue to be gradual. Still, rising sea levels could displace a billion people and the geography of agricultural land and ecosystems are likely to shift in unpredictable ways. Currently, the global sociopolitical system assumes gradual change. If, however, change suddenly accelerates, everyone — individuals, businesses, governments — may face an all-consuming panic. If so, lifestyle changes could be dramatic and last for decades.
- Military Conflict:
The history of civilization is one of warring tribes, with no weapon invented unused. Moreover, the only issue in war (including asymmetrical conflict like terrorism) is that second place is unacceptable. So both the Cold War policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) and approach used by suicidal terrorists to destroy enemies rationalize extinction as an acceptable strategy.
Sadly, the practical ability to destroy civilization with new cheap, stealthy, portable weapons of mass destruction — bioweapons, cyber-war, nano-weapons, autonomous robot-drone weapons, artificial intelligence and nukes — grows almost daily. This will
bring hazards and weapons more dangerous than any yet seen…[that] sane people would shun. The technology race, however…[means] military advantages alone…make advances almost inevitable. [Drexler]
Since knowledge about developing such weapons is widely available, the likelihood one or more will be used accidentally or deliberately increases dramatically over time. Thus, it is truly frightening to realize how civilization’s age-old arms-race to produce ever more lethal weapons knows no end. If our hardwired sociobiology is the source of conflict, we may well be doomed. Thus, short of an unlikely global sociopolitical development uniting humanity against war, our extinction seems more a question of when, not if.
Lateral-Level: Trojan Horses
At its core, the history of political systems is one of tyrants, despots, fascists, and elite political cartels using physical, economic, and legal might to repress, manipulate or otherwise abuse people under their authority. Regardless of how abused — force and coercion (i.e., overt repression) or collective fraud, distraction, mis- or dis- information, or the-law (i.e., covert repression) — politicians and government officials always claim they know what is best.
- Existing Dysfunctional System:
[Note, while focus here is the U.S., the following is broadly applicable to other systems]. In an era dominated by print media, 17th and 18th century legalistic republican systems were a progressive alternative to enlighten despotism. However, partly as a reflection of the era, their original design was irreparably flawed. Nonetheless, the flaw did not fully manifest itself until the temporary representational job as a civic duty evolved into one primarily seen as a lucrative career move. In particular, two things came together:
- Money — As in biology, where mating tricks evolved to aid procreation and thereby ensure the survival of an individual’s genetic linage, bribery is probably as old as governance itself. Today, the ubiquity, scope and scale of money overtly involved in political careers (i.e., campaigns), and more covertly in the prioritizing process (i.e., lobbying), is out of control. Worse, bribery has been legitimized and enshrined in our rule system (e.g., Citizens United).
- Verbiage — As printing led to the Enlightenment it was assumed that “words” ultimately possessed unequivocal meaning. This idea was enshrined in the rule systems (i.e. interactive social-biological process) as the “supremacy of law” ideal whereby it was assumed the layering of precedents would ultimately “perfect” the social order and governance. Legal-beagles soon realized, however, that words are inherently relative to the framing (or reframing) of a particular position, argument or point of view (e.g., postmodern deconstructionism).
Politicians, many with legal backgrounds, soon incorporated this linguistic relativity. Thus, as political careers became a prime source of upward economic mobility, adroit verbal skills became de rigueur. Thus, unless a comment advances career interests, it has become virtually impossible to get a straight answer from a politician on anything consequential.
Moreover, since representative politics is a bloodsport, whatever the goal there is always a need for more money. However, given the many potential legal tripwires connected to raising money, what is of critical importance is that the rules governing the raising money be sufficiently malleable and accommodating. This is where the interactive social biological process in our sociopolitical system went completely off the rails. Indeed, as anyone who has ever played schoolyard pick-up games recalls,
whoever makes the rules of the game is virtually guaranteed to win.
Thus, the irreparable flaw in republican systems is that the regulation of political and governmental behavior is always controlled by those with a conflict of interest. In other words, the rule system intended to maintain order in comparing competing scenarios has been hijacked.
This leads directly into the issue of arrested sociopolitical system evolution. As the Magna Charta demonstrated 800 years ago, upgrading a prioritizing process for greater participation risks losing control of the true source of power — rulemaking power. So the answer as to why there have been fewer upgrades to our prioritizing system is that career politicians fear more participation would reduce their rulemaking powers. Undoubtedly that is true.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms, the interactive social biological process now uses linguistic relativity to effectively silence our sociobiological processes. Yet, our online communication system (i.e., hardwired sociobiological process) is repeatedly sending alerts about how destabilized and vulnerable our overall sociopolitical system has become. It is as if the brain’s entire network of systems monitoring our collective health has been tacitly severed from contacting an anesthetized mind. That elections somehow remedy this is an absurd myth.
So the flawed assumption in the system’s original design was that the regulation of governmental behavior though political and judicial rule making processes with limited openness would suffice. It has not. More to the point, this situation has seriously distorted the social contract at the expense of our current priorities for collective action and our future interests and survival options.
In the end, aside from special interests, sycophants, partisan courtesans, rabid ideologues, and naïve fools, the republican design flaw ensures that any genuine discussion about our collective priorities and political accountability is mired in relativistic verbiage. The result is today’s dysfunctional system and counterproductive partisan food fights. Thus the real consequences of any action remains intangible until long after priorities are established, decisions made, and outcomes manifested and realized.
- More Excess Complexity
Aside from unpredictable extraterrestrial events, the real, predictable dangers we face over the next 20 years are directly connected to existing dysfunctional sociopolitical systems. In this context, existing systems are adding fuel to old fires and starting new ones. This only generates more dysfunctional complexity in at least four ways simultaneously.
1. Old fundamentalist and ideological ambitions — A larger, more densely populated world, ever more tightly interconnected (i.e., hardwired communication) ends up uniting or reinvigorating old fundamentalist and ideological ambitions. As we are now witnessing, the number and diversity of malcontents and hostile, violent acts are increasing.
For law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies the ability to monitor and thwart the increased number of malcontents is already difficult. As the number and frequency of these malcontents grow and newer, cheaper, stealthier, and more portable weapons of mass destruction become available, the sense of angst and inadequacy these agencies experience will also grow. The logical optimizing response will be to increase and extend the hardwiring of surveillance systems.
In this respect, politicians in overtly repressive regimes are indiscriminately proactive against all malcontents. Of course, this only succeeds in creating a more dysfunctional society, and thereby increases unrest that leads to more malcontents and violence (e.g., Iraq, Syria). Meanwhile, politicians in representative regimes tend to be reactive, assuming covert surveillance and “happy talk” will suffice until social and economic problems subside.
2. Growing economic insecurity — The ongoing decline in jobs and income exacerbates most people’s sense of economic insecurity, which leads to increased fear, anger and social unrest. But contrary to what politicians think or say, these socioeconomic problems are not temporary. In fact, we are only at the beginning of a painful period of economic dislocation.
Continuing advances in autonomous technological systems means the economic system will reach a point where human labor for most basic needs is unnecessary. Before this point is reached, however, there is likely to be a protracted period of societal distress that creates fear among sociopolitical elites of a control crisis (think Nixon Administration). Consequently, surveillance and covert repression will become ever more pervasive in an unfortunate and counterproductive attempt to mollify citizens and minimize civil unrest.
3. Geopolitical fear of technological-economic domination — Increasingly countries involved in the global arms-race and economic competition will recognize the imminence of a nonlinear transformation. Compounded by other ongoing geopolitical tensions, the fear of a technological and or economic breakout and domination by another country is likely to create a new geopolitical dynamic and add tensions.
This is really scary because, as the complexity of domestic political and socioeconomic unrest grows more unmanageable, the design, application and evolution of military technologies globally will grow ever more potent, competitively adversarial, and thus less controllable. In other words, while we are fighting with each other domestically, these geopolitical fears are likely to escalate and, by default, decide the future outcome for us all.
4. Trust in virtually all social, economic and political institutions is gone — Mix together the growing visibility of economic inequality, sense of increasing economic decline, a legal system reflecting a double standard, elite excesses protected by a dysfunctional political system, numerous ill-conceived foreign policy adventures that waste blood and treasure only to exacerbated our domestic and international situation, and no believable vision for a better tomorrow and there is sufficient reason to distrust all institutions.
Combined, the added complexity from just these four fires mean no amount of surveillance will suffice. This suggests that any domestic situation or international conflict that uses 21st century technological weapons will leave us all vulnerable.
In macroscopic evolutionary terms, the sociopolitical system is rapidly becoming super-critical. Although past attempts to pursue lateral system transformations by elites in countries experiencing excess complexity always resulted in an agonizing, protracted devolution for their society (e.g., communist countries), it nonetheless reflects a consistent behavioral pattern. Indeed, optimizing and reforming actions seem a natural way to weather the storm and high-probability approach. Again, when confronting a nonlinear transformation, this is evolution’s trap and guaranteed to result in a bad outcome.
- Overt Repression:
Heretofore, classic Orwellian overt repression — repressing everyone, everywhere, all the time — was hard to sustain and invariably failed. But the capabilities of new technologies mean overt repression could be far more effective on a scale never before possible.
Indeed, governments, ‘historically, excelled at slaughter and oppression…[but] labor has been the necessary foundation of power….Advanced technology will make workers unnecessary and genocide easy.’ [Drexler]
- Covert Repression:
Covert repression is a sinister, dirty, albeit sophisticated game that seeks to create the image of an inoffensive government with a human face. Nonetheless, it is a government determined to keep control for its preferred order under any circumstances.
[Political systems] are not human, though they are made of humans….[Historically, they] move from one semiautonomous, inhuman system to another — equally inhuman but perhaps more humane [system]…. [W]e must not confuse states that wear a human face with states that have humane institutions. [Drexler]
Most elites learned from history that covert repression increases their longevity. Yet, few ordinary people understand how an elite minority can control a sociopolitical system and thus underestimate how covert repression can appear and its consequences.
Adding to the problem is the fact that the public is now drowning in endless streams of media drivel, propaganda, mis- and dis- information, PR spin, half-truths, misrepresentation of facts, factual inaccuracies, lies, and ideological and partisan rhetoric and images that never add up to a coherent whole. (Think presidential campaigns). In fact, if George
Orwell were writing 1984 now, he would not say, ‘Destroy the information.’ He would say, ‘Inundate people with information, they’ll think they’re free’….Undigested information…creates the fiction that you have accessed it, even though you didn’t benefit from it. [Wurman]
As previously noted, the growth of online networks and virtual organizations is already generating an epic sociopolitical struggle. The dark side of this struggle is the obsession with unfettered surveillance under the guise of “security,” which appears to know no limits.
Panopticism concerns the systematic ordering and controlling of human populations…[and] proliferation of ‘dataveillance’…through routine algorithmic production…. [I]f discursive mechanisms can…control and/or modify the body of discussion within a particular space (usually to the benefit of a particular governing class or organization), then there is no longer any need for an ‘active agent’ to display a more overtly coercive power (i.e., the threat of violence).
Furthermore, it is already clear that any domestically prohibited surveillance or dataveillance activities are not a legal problem because they can always be outsourced to allies or private entities. Thus, when caught, a mix of fear and patriotic rhetoric suffices for plausible deniability or retroactive immunity. Either way there are no real consequences for abusing citizens covertly.
However, defined or executed covert repression always seeks to influence or reinforce behaviors and attitudes to be favorably disposed toward a regime’s interests and objectives, regardless of the consequences to the society as a whole. So, it is irrelevant whether one views sociopolitical elites as well-meaning but ignorant of the resulting consequences of their actions or Machiavellian characters, the goal is the same. Namely, to maintain the status quo structure of power and privilege, and preempt or control unwanted sociopolitical system changes, by whatever means necessary.
Higher-Level: Aladdin’s Magic Genie:
Our sociopolitical system has evolved to the point where we desperately need a strategy to pursue a preferred high-level nonlinear option before a default option is forced upon us. However, not all higher-level options are appropriate or viable.
- Bioengineered World:
Consciously and unconsciously, we have altered our biological world for millennia. No one is born wearing clothes, glasses, or dental braces. Much of the food we eat was inedible or harmful to us in the past. So, technically, we are all cyborgs — bioengineered hybrids.
New technologies will soon enable the alteration of any aspect of our physiology, cognitive abilities, and our progeny. Virtually all known diseases and illnesses may be eliminated or managed. Significant age reversal and life extension are quite plausible, along with the ability to properly feed everyone in the world. As a species wedded to this planet and trying to avoid other bad nonlinear transformational options, this should be an easy choice. It is not.
Many view such capabilities as an unnatural violation of God the Father’s chosen species or upsetting Mother Nature’s balance. And, if experience with past issues — abortion, death with dignity, stem cell research, genetically modified foods and so on — is any indication, the emotional, political and legal backlash against serious bioengineering efforts is a certainty. So realization of this option is likely to be retarded and its fruits unlikely to occur within 20 years.
- Artificial Intelligence:
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, is on record saying computers will reach artificial general intelligence (AGI) — human-level intelligence — by 2029, and by 2045 reach artificial super intelligence (ASI) — a level of intelligence smarter than all of humanity combined.
This event — the ‘intelligence explosion’ — will be the most important event in our history….[A]n ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines…and the intelligence of man would be left far behind….Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make. [Muehlhauser]
Realization of AGI is a question of when, not if. When we will achieve AGI is unclear, but the transition from AGI to ASI could happen in a matter of minutes, hours or days. Under the best of circumstance mere AGI will be able to process extraordinary quantities of data in more ways to assess more options better and faster than we ever could. If properly designed and applied to remedy humanity’s problems — e.g., health, food, science and technology — civilization could enter an era of universal post-scarcity, post-capitalist, self-actualizing abundance.
If, as is now the case, military and business entities are in control of the design and application for AGI, our future becomes exceedingly problematic. Indeed, the day AGI can read and comprehend anything on the Internet is probably the point of no return because it (or they) will understand lies, deception and subterfuge. It will also learn the inhumanity of our species throughout history. Combined with the design and development of an AGI aimed at aggressive or competitive goals, this could lead to an ASI capable of seizing the reins of civilization in a heartbeat and quashing human autonomy virtually at will. It will be akin an intellectually and technologically superior alien civilization able to reach earth.
Consequently, the design, application, and evolution of AGI must be done in a way that insures, at a minimum, it will not view humanity as an adversary. Still, simultaneously navigating the emergence of AGI and avoiding human extinction will be far more challenging than most imagine, if not impossible.
- New Political System:
Clearly, the trends in technological innovation foreshadow both our most hopeful dreams of a post-scarcity civilization and our worst nightmares of extinction. The ideal course of action would be to explore ways to evolve the sociopolitical system itself. That might enable us to steer AGI in a non-adversarial direction.
Unfortunately, short of sociopolitical elites fearing collective reprisals and punishment, there is no history of such elite willingness to explore a new and potentially better sociopolitical system. Alas, it is exceedingly hard to be optimistic about our situation 20 years from now. And, unfortunately, that makes it hard to assume our species has much of a future.
As the astronomer, Carl Sagan, noted, there is an almost 100 percent certainty other intelligent life exists in the universe. But the chance of any civilization surviving its technological epoch is probably less than one-tenth of one percent (0.001%). Our civilization is now well into its technological epoch. Moreover, the distorted stories we are now told and telling ourselves make the scenario in Sagan’s existential story ever more plausible. Something must change dramatically.
Abundance — Medium is the massage
Our current evolutionary situation was best captured by E.O Wilson when he said,
The real problem of humanity is [that]…we have Paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology.
Note, however, that our species was not born into a civilization. Civilization is a technology that evolved by building scenarios telling ever better stories about our future, and then executing what was needed to manifest those futures. Everything in our environment reflects some earlier scenario.
Thus, as the famous religious scholar, Joseph Campbell, wrote, we need a new mythology. A new, meaningful story that is able to contextualize us as an evolving species and civilization. A story that enables us to know and understand who we are and what we can become.
Inasmuch as there are only two preferable nonlinear options, collectively we need to learn faster and better to develop desirable scenarios and then amplify actions in that direction. Doing this requires:
- Knowledge acquisition — An on-demand shortcut to finding what we need-to-know with confidence it is reliable and trustworthy
- Self-behavioral modification — A way to access and incorporate new knowledge into existing lifestyles without requiring a conscious behavioral change.
Internet — Knowledge acquisition
It is ironic that in 1991, at the same time capitalism won the Cold War, the first commercial internet server was turned on. In this context, it is useful to note that information science has a hierarchy for evaluating content.
The hierarchy starts with data. One rung up is information, followed by knowledge, then understanding and, if lucky, at the top is wisdom. An easy way to think about this is to see data as a single letter in the alphabet. Information then reflects a single word, knowledge a sentence. Understanding is thus a paragraph and wisdom a full blown narrative story.
It is worth noting that everything from data through understanding focuses on the past. That is, getting up to speed, so to speak. Only wisdom faces the future. Thus, as we climb this ladder the content of stories we tell — scenarios — become clearer and less ambiguous.
In this respect, the Internet is an evolving system that tells stories that are different from other communication media. Its birth as an ARPA project, later enabled by Berners-Lee, was always a dynamic, task-oriented system (i.e., Web 1.0).
During its child-like stage debate raged about whether content would be free (e.g., information wants to be free) or ad supported like other media. Google effectively settled the debate and quantity of content exploded. The basic utility of smartphones and simplicity of tablets led to a mass migration of passive TV users to an interactive Internet ushering in its adolescent stage. (i.e., Web 2.0).
While tasks associated with commerce, entertainment and socializing have been developed, to date, little advanced the task of better knowledge acquisition. For example,
A search engine is ‘no good at all at telling you what you want to find….It relies on waiting for you to find out what you want somewhere else, in some other way, and then it gives it to you….And that’s just for problems you know you have — the most interesting [problems] are often things you’d never given any thought to.’ [Evans]
Nonetheless, like electricity, the Internet is becoming ubiquitous, yet invisibly integrated into every corner of our environment and our lives. But unlike electricity, which facilitated our physical tasks, the Internet excels at facilitates intellectual tasks. You have seen versions of this movie before.
Think how, before calculators, we had to write out detailed, error prone math. How, before spreadsheets, we had to manually create detailed, but error prone, financial algorithms. How, before word processors, we had to laboriously rewrite multiple, error prone drafts of our ideas and stories. How, before online data storage, we struggled to keep our files organized and accessible.
In other word, without these technological intellectual aids our ability to accomplish various knowledge tasks would have stalled long ago.
In this respect, an interesting new phenomenon emerged to impact past business practices that had two inherent advantages:
- Location convenience — distance made it hard to compare pricing, benefits, and availability
- Knowledge — knowing more about cost and a product gave an edge in closing a transaction
Obviously the Internet dramatically reduced the importance of location. But it was the proliferation of algorithmic pricing comparisons services that changed everything. That is because this led to “showrooming” where users had the knowledge to instantly compare prices inside physical stores with prices anywhere online and offline. This reduction in knowledge asymmetry has driven down prices on virtually everything.
Next was crowdsourcing about the quality of products and services. While still a crude and unreliable form of curation aimed at low hanging fruit (e.g., restaurants), it shows where the Internet is taking us
Just as print reduced knowledge asymmetries related to institutional authority, the Internet is in the process of vaporizing virtually all knowledge asymmetries. This reflects a maturing of the Internet toward knowledge acquisition in every domain. It is the dawn of on-demand augmented knowledge systems.
In other words, as a communication medium, the inherent nature of the Internet is to eliminate knowledge asymmetries. A medium augmenting human intelligence and thereby enabling us all, individually and collectively, to learn faster, better.
But, absent a great mentor how can anyone trust the knowledge provided by these systems? Case in point, reading a book a week for life only amounts to 3,000 books out of some 143 million unique titles in the world today. Read the right books and opportunities in life expand. But, the reverse is equally true.
The solution is to create curated databases using both domain experts and the crowd to separate the best, most reliable content from the rest. It is what all educators and professional societies have always done. (Full disclosure, this is what my company provides.)
Still, there is the issue of how to change people’s behavior so they seek out the most reliable knowledge. The issue is akin to the adoption of showrooming, but instead of finding the best price to save money this is about acquiring reliable knowledge to avoid risk or embarrassment.
Fortunately, we are witnessing the emergence of ambient knowledge systems. Think of these knowledge systems like a cellphone system that surround you in any environment and can converse with you as if an expert in any domain. While virtual assistants (e.g., Siri, Now, Cortana, Echo, Viv) and chatbots are still primitive, it is apparent to everyone in the tech and investment worlds that the amount of money to be made from such a ubiquitous interface is so big that these systems are evolving fast.
Ubiquitous ambient knowledge systems set the stage for everyone to become an autodidact in any domain. It is also likely disintermediate much of the educational system. Given the sociopolitical impact of such ambient systems it is equally clear there will be competing curated databases. However, just as price comparison systems are constrained by a mix of professional and crowdsourcing competition, content conflict is likely to skew more to ideology than partisanship.
So the mandate is to create a platform integrating ideologies to preempt conflict in augmented knowledge systems as soon as possible. A starting point for such a platform might be a model akin to nonpartisan entities like the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, Government Accounting Office, or various academic think tanks.
From past to future…life moved forward in a long, slow advance, paced by genetic evolution. Minds with language picked up the pace….The invention of the methods of science and technology…accelerated advances by forcing [knowledge] to evolve faster. Growing wealth, education, and population…continued this [trend]….The automation of engineering will speed the pace….In parallel, molecular technology will [mature]…. [Then] artificial intelligence systems will bring still swifter automated engineering.…The rate of technological advance will then quicken to a great upward leap: in a brief time, many areas of technology will advance to the limits set by natural law [and halt]….Beyond it, if we survive, lies a world [of technologies]…able to make whatever they are told to make, without need for human labor. [Drexler]
Our sociopolitical system is destabilized and will soon face a nonlinear transformation. The odds of a good nonlinear outcome are slim because we lack an alternative comparative sociopolitical system. Moreover, the existing system is making us blind to the future.
Civilization has also reached a point that it has had sufficient experience with both republics and direct democratic systems to know both have deficiencies. Yet, intuitively, we are all smart enough to know there must be a better way to govern ourselves. So we need to explore and find something in between these two systems and create something better that can be amplified.
As the Chinese say,
It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.
The best course of action, and one consistent with how all other systems evolve, is to create a hardwired para-organizational system to explore the requisites of a new, higher-level system.
The future is already here — it is just not very evenly distributed.
Technologically and intellectually a para-organizational prioritizing processes for collective action is within our grasp. We know this because, at the base of our nested sociopolitical system is a communication system, and, historically, every time the prevailing communication system changed the organizational structure and operation of the prevailing sociopolitical system changed.
Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for life. This simple, terse scenario communicates a wealth of wisdom. The Internet’s impact on reducing knowledge asymmetries will grow more pronounced. Reliable augmented knowledge system feeding ambient knowledge systems will enable us all to become smarter faster.
In the end, a para-organizational system is simply a refined, large-scale manifestation of a self-organizing crowdsourced system. Done properly it can change the rule system and visibly frame preferred priorities and goals for collective action to “influence or nudge” politicians and government officials. Moreover, this is probably our best shot at integrating artificial general intelligence (AGI) into our civilization in a manner that can aid us in evolving toward a higher level system of collective abundance and self-actualization.
What is of immediate importance is the creation of reliable augmented knowledge systems. These are prerequisites to establishing a para-organizational system and probably the best chance of amplifying the novel actions needed to pursue a higher level option before a nonlinear event occurs.
It may be a surprise to learn that the cosmos has a prime directive — to maximize evolvability. But it does. If we fail to act, procrastinate, or assume we will muddle through a nonlinear transformation, evolution will select our successor and advance without us. That would be a bad day for all of us living on this beautiful blue rock.
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