Finding Earth 2
Identifying the Currents
by Mike Meyer
Our planet is reorganized into borderless, virtual, transparent administrative structures. These virtual structures, evolved communities (Polities), and geographic regions, once called cities (Metropoles), are non-exclusive and made up of people sharing a specific ethic, morality, and vision of their future. The roles once plaid by government, usually badly, are the province of merged AI/ML systems with select human representatives maintaining efficient delivery of mandatory standard services, based on rights, and selected optional services, based on choice. Rights are common to the planet and sacred, using the original meaning of that word. Optional services and specific moralities are by Polity and/or Metropole defined by blockchain public contract for each individual. Conflicting Optional Services and Moralities are the source of endless entertainment and discussion. — Elementary Earth 2, Spring 2075
My trusty crystal ball rolled down the stairs and out the door years ago so I can’t guarantee exactly how this will happen but, after a lifetime of watching the slow motion train wreck that is the end of the American experiment, I can see that we are clearly on our way to Earth 2. We will look at how this could come about from the worsening disaster that Earth 1 is facing in a bit. But first I want to say this is not a scheme, plan, or just fiction but a product of observation and analysis of the massive social and intellectual changes that have been advancing on a geometric scale for the last fifty years or so. This is what is happening and the birth of this new world is what is destroying the world we live in now. Chunks of that world have broken free and are starting to float around looking for new homes. This geometric rate of change is looking to go logarithmic in the next few years if not sooner. A lot of this is not new but it is becoming Earth 2.
Just to put this in some context the first presidential election that I remember was Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1952. My musical world runs from the Everly Brothers and Perry Como, to the Beatles, Animals, and Rolling Stones, disco, ’80s alt, grunge rock, various forms of house to global chill completely intermingled with the full history western classical and a special place for minimalist not to mention Chinese, Japanese, and various schools of Indian sitar and flute. This is not an accomplishment but merely living a long time and being interested in stuff. It is meant to show that I’m not easily surprised. So, I repeat, I’m seriously amazed at what is increasingly clear. We are at a major historical inflection point that represents homo sapiens on the verge of getting our shit together. If, that is, we can keep the slower (in both possible meanings of that word) portions of our population from totally destroying us and most of the related life forms on this planet. That is a major stumbling point.
Right now a large percentage of the planet’s population, and a large majority in the US, is very tired of being sick with fear and worry. 2018 is already making 2017 look like the minor leagues for general political stupidity lead by the rapid decline of the US. As, still, the richest and most powerful nation on the planet the sudden collapse of the American experiment into low grade warlordship, elements of fascism, and racist political collapse is brutally scary. After a badly bungled election and the accidental inauguration of a dangerously incompetent president supported by the remnants of a national political party that panicked, people have been expecting total collapse at any time. The wild swings from delusional shouting, infantile jealousy, threats of nuclear annihilation, corrupt tax laws, paying off of cronies and raped women, and impoverishing millions does heighten the fear of economic collapse or worse. Fortunately in dealing with planetary size economies and very large regional components of that economy it takes more than a year or two to destroy it. Short of nuclear war, of course. But brutally repressive police states can be built in a year or two and with political collapse there is nothing standing in the way. That reality is finally dawning and the tension is mounting.
But none of this happened over night. The rise to dominance of an extreme form of capitalism, mostly in the US and a few related nations in the last decades of the 20th century triggered a stunning increase in wealth among the oligarchic elite while over all resources tied to technology and pure data processing continued to, never the less, raise living standards around the planet. Structural problems with 18th and 19th century concepts of capitalism and semi representative governments became to large to hide and are far to integrated to fix. As with all systems designed for specific ends under specific conditions, when those ends have been achieved the solution often becomes a new problem. And large unsolvable problems aggravate other problems while conditions that were historically considered tolerable for centuries become intolerable in the course of one or two life times. We have now reached the limit of tolerance for the structural political and economic problems that were great achievements in the 18th and 19th centuries but transformed into 21st century failures.
There is a bright side that becomes increasingly apparent in these paradigm shifts at whatever scale. (And we are at the biggest yet seen.) The problems that have arisen to plague the old systems in new and unique ways consist of the new, potential solutions that are beyond the scope of the old systems to articulate let alone understand. They, of course, aren’t obviously solutions but are the new metaphorical language that will allow new systems to be built. The key is getting this in focus, and taking a deep breath, before full on hysterical panic takes over. To put this as simply as possible we are being forced to learn a new language to describe and then define human society in the context of this planet at this point in our history. Old solutions have ceased to provide the correct answers, not because they were not valid in their context but because the context, the very conditions of life, have changed.
I have written a lot about this as I’ve tried to wade through the rising tide of troubled waters. Many people have been attempting the same thing particularly in the last year since the sudden political collapse marked by the Trump coup. Most have stayed in the stupefying struggle to understand the absurdity of a Trump in the White House and what it means in order to find a route back to sanity. Many hold tenaciously to that desire while a growing percentage of people recognize that there is no going home again. Another growing range of people, coming from the technology engine of change, or other intellectual perspectives are paddling frantically to catch the new currents to see where we are going. That is what I am trying to describe here. We have increasingly strong currents and if we can learn to ride them successfully we won’t be capsized in the deluge. And that is a carefully chosen word. Trump has no idea of the history but he should be saying: “Après moi, le déluge”. And none too soon.
The Dangerous Currents
The accelerating changes that are eroding the structural foundations of the 21st century world are centered around nation-state politics and economics. The eroding currents have deformed the dominant capitalist economic and semi-representative political systems that rose to dominance in the 20th century. The massive changes produced by information technology, conversion of all information to digital forms, internet, social media, and growing virtualization delivering power to individuals once beyond the reach of the most advanced nation states, cannot be contained by 18th century political models or 19th century economics. At the most fundamental level the balance of power has now shifted from national political elites to individuals and crowd sourced groups. This is the essence of the paradigm shift that is irreversible and has destroyed two centuries of “modern” social structure. But what does this mean for day to day reality?
At the human level this means our languages have lost meaning. Many daily terms that we use to describe social relationships and agreed upon power structures are no longer valid. In the US, as the creator of many of the concepts that are critical to the modern world, we are suddenly struggling with disagreement about facts and simple reality. This is what a very large paradigm shift does and, for the first time, it is being done at a planetary scale. These are complex processes that are recursive and fractal. But the problems are being worked out by people all around us because homo sapiens as social animals cannot live with the collapse of language and meaning. We react automatically to restore structure and order. In these situations the changes that caused the loss of meaning are worked with spontaneously and new meanings are found. This is the process of fundamental cultural change that historically would take decades or even centuries and would effect small groups slowly ricocheting around continents and then the planet. We are well on our way to doing this in a few years for the linked levels of our planetary societies now moving downward to everyone in all cultures.
So the problem is not Trump being a liar, although that is certainly a problem and an extreme example, but a characteristic of this process of fundamental language change. Certain types of people identify the loss of meaning more quickly than others. Unfortunately these are people who find opportunity in taking advantage of the confusion of the system disruption due to the loss of shared meaning to insert themselves for personal gain. These are people who have trained themselves to identify these situations and so are most attuned to these types of opportunities. Historically this type of change causes loss of faith in societies because people are confused by sudden large changes in meaning thus opening up the opportunity for exploitation. We might say that this situation brings out the worst types first because these are the scavengers who have little concern for others but are quick to act. We saw this suddenly in the US in the 2016 election. While there were many factors and currents of change it was the massive paradigmatic shift that created the loss of meaning triggering standard human reaction.
While these things are now happening extraordinarily quickly there have been several years of sentinel change. I would suggest that the extreme radicalization of the Republican party and the closely related corruption of the Democratic party are both results of this process producing a ‘sudden’ failure of the political system. But the process continues and that is happening at the individual and small group level with unique characteristics that are quickly moving us to completely new territory.
Currents away from the nation-state
At the planetary level the process is still building and has not yet hit a takeoff point as the US has with political collapse. But these currents and changes are complex, recursive, and entangled at many levels. To simplify this let’s look at the high level changes that are most important now. The scientific consensus is that climate change resulting from the transition to the Anthropocene geologic age is at a critical stage and represents that greatest challenge our species has ever faced. Major change to our attitudes and actions as they affect our planet must happen within the next few years to avoid disastrous destruction to human civilization. This is entangled in the paradigm shift that we are racing through. While the numbers are difficult to determine, international agreements (Paris 2015) and individual nation-state declarations, e.g. EU and China, seem so show that this is clearly understood by a majority of the human population. Denial of this reality is also clearly a product of the refusal to give up the current failing socioeconomic and political structures that have caused the disaster. This is a nasty alliance between the exploiters with minimum sensitivity to others who have control of the old system and the chaos opportunists who take advantage of the reaction to language shifts.
Because the basic concept of capitalism in any form is continuous growth of manufactured goods by marshaling capital to the most aggressive groups to maximize resource exploitation, this is well past being viable in the Anthropocene age. The flexibility to continuously create competitive entities to process capital and resource opportunities produced more open societies ruled by a broader group of citizens needed to manage and staff the new entities for production. The nature of capitalism requires political controls to counter its innate tendency to monopolies. Competition is essential to capitalism but is never the goal of capitalist entities that always strive for the elimination of competition. Capitalism produces rapid growth of wealth and consumption of resources which, if properly managed, can quickly raise over all living standards with the addition of goods and services. Beyond a certain point the owners of the largest entities manage to achieve consolidation that produces too much capital. This flows around the planet creating an international economy based on the most lucrative process. That has and continues to be fossil fuels. Continuous expansion of production requires continuous expansion of the sources of fossil fuels. The primary focus of all governmental and capital entities is continued delivery of an endless and growing supply of fossil fuels. This has produced the continuous wars fought by the US as the most extreme capitalist nation-state.
We are living in the era when all of these, previously, successful systems have hit major points of collapse. That returns us to the political component of semi or partially representative governments. In short the final stage of capitalism creates a class of vastly wealthy owners with excess capital. The most critical component of capitalist growth is fuel and resources for production. In nation-states where capitalism has been allowed to grow out of control the owner class makes the representatives of the states’ population their employees by any means possible. I would suggest that this is inevitable unless the population of that nation-state has retained enough direct political control and are committed to ecological sensitivity to limit the lure of materialistic fixation. For the US and many other countries this has not been the case. The result is a government with representatives, not of the people, but of the financial interests of the capitalist owning class who pays them.
As a result of these effects the most successful nation-states and the international economic alliance are focused both internally and externally at gaining all possible sources of fossil fuels and the means to deliver those plus raw materials to their chosen points of production. Increasingly these will not necessarily be in the owning nation-state but in the cheapest point of production owned jointly by the now dominant oligarchic class. Demands for changes unrelated to this focus are then increasingly ignored by participating nation-states or are dealt with only as necessary to maintain political control and stability. This is supplemented only by the need to increase the consuming population. Unfortunately the rise of technical automation and the fact that too much capital as well as too many goods are already produced creates increasing instability in markets.
The structures that are eroding to the point of collapse include all of these components managed, effectively, by the nation-state system. What is arising in the paradigm shift that has begun to trigger collapse are new alternatives to these structures.
Next: Finding Earth 2 : Signs of Change