The Heart of the Problem
Buckminster Fuller was a strong believer in the power of design to revolutionize our world. He believed that bright minds would come up with increasingly efficient and cheap solutions that would shift our world towards a more people centered and egalitarian society based around the principle that we inhabit a common Spaceship and as such our destinies are inextricably linked. Bucky felt that better design was the only thing that could change the world because he believed changing people on any large scale was an insurmountable task. He was certain that a design revolution would take place in his lifetime. He was wrong.
The reason he was wrong was because he neglected to account for the fact that the things we design and put into the world originate within the minds of the people. As long as these people operate within the current system, the designs and inventions will fit and perpetuate the current system. Great ideas do not become realities in our society unless they have a profit incentive, unless they entice investors, unless they prove their worth as defined by our system’s values. Same thinking, same solutions.
Albert Einstein understood this when he wrote “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.”
Without changing the heart you won’t change the output.
The Operating System
An Operating System (OS) is a core set of code that determines what is possible and not possible to do on a device. Only programs which are compatible with the OS can run on the device.
We normally think of an Operating System as a purely computer related term reserved for the likes of Windows, iOS, and Linux, but what if we took this concept and applied it to people? Don’t we also have operating systems that determine how and what we think? How we interpret and process stimuli and information? A set of basic principles that allow us to make sense of the world around us and inform how we operate within it?
The code that we use for our Human operating systems does not come pre-installed or on a floppy disc. Instead we are gradually programmed from an early age by the code we are surrounded by in our lives. By the time we are grown, we are not even aware of the fact that we have been programmed to be this way.
Religion, government, economics, nationality, family, economic structures, social conventions all contribute to making up our systems. Religion often being the longest standing and thus most influential of the systems. While religions have evolved over the years, they are still based on human knowledge from centuries or millenia ago.
They were adopted because they created stability, trust, purpose and community in a time where the world around us was often filled with mystery and uncertainty. Skip ahead 2000 years and the problems we face as a society and a planet are quite different. The advancements in science, technology, travel, and communication have transformed the world around us, but our internal OSes have not advanced at the same pace.
We are overdue for an update.
Isn’t Science the New OS?
Free thinkers who were watching the Scientific Revolution take place were convinced that the days of religion were numbered. They were certain that with science bringing ever-increasing knowledge of the world around us people would no longer have the need for their old superstitions and religion would fade into oblivion. Clearly they under-estimated how engrained religion and its practices are in the human psyche.
Four hundred years later and you would have to say that religion is still a significant force on our human experience.
As much as science has answered, it has also left un-answered. People striving to find meaning in their lives tend to find them in churches, temples, and mosques, not in science journals.
Science is not enough.
Can’t Erase, Must Replace
People will not let go of the branch they are holding until they have a new branch to grab onto. So if we want to move beyond our current stage we need to create a new system for people to adopt. One that offers a narrative and principles that are more applicable than the current default. One that aligns itself better to the context of the 21st century.
Since we do not have the benefit of direct heavenly inspiration we will have to take our pointers from the world around us. So what does the world tell us? What do we as people tell ourselves? Who will we choose to be our teachers and guides?
What have we discovered through millennia of social experimentation in the realms of religion, philosophy, art, music, politics, and technology? If we were to create a remix of all this wisdom to best prepare the next generation, what would this look like?
Our Current System (Alpha)
If we think of humanity as a software program, then the portion of our existence up to this stage can be seen as an Alpha stage. We went from caves to skyscrapers using more or less the same parameters to push this evolution:
- “Winner takes all”
- “Might is right”
Our New System (Beta)
If you accept the concept of Human Operating Systems it can seem depressing, because the systems currently in place are firmly entrenched and will be difficult to uproot. However there is also freedom in this concept, because it states that so much of what isn’t working in the world is not due to our nature, but rather our programming. This leaves us with an opportunity. Each of us can choose to change our programming, and in the process we can change the world.
People are already exemplifying and living the new Beta values in pockets around the world.
The new paradigm looks like this:
- “We’re all in this together”
- “Sharing is caring”
Utopia or Oblivion
We are faced with a world that is rapidly spinning out of control. The window for humanity to rise up and face our challenges head-on is closing. If we do not manage to self-correct soon we will reach a tipping point beyond which there will be no chance to preserve the naturally occurring processes of our Spaceship. Are we willing to accept an ocean without fish? A land without flowers and bees? We either rise UP together or fall down alone. The choice is before us. We either step UP to the next level in our evolution or we risk losing everything we’ve accomplished so far.
A major blockage we face when trying to solve our problems comes from our thinking being limited to the parameters of our current system. The solutions we come up with are rooted in the rules of the status quo. If we want to come up with new solutions we need to first outline the new world we wish to create. Only once we have a clear vision of how we as humans want to live and interact can we start building towards that idea. We must use our imaginations to dream up a new worldview. Once that is clear, the paths that will take us there will become visible to us all.
Components of a New Operating System
A new system will need at least the following components to be successful:
- Identity — We need a clear brand that people can identify and associate with
- Historical Recontextualization — We need to re-interpret our history to get a clearer view of our current place in evolution
- Purpose — Setting the intention for change
- Principles — Clear first principles to use as guides for our choices
- Practice — Instructions for implementing the system upgrade on an individual and group level
- Community — Tools for connecting people who are walking the same path
- Communication — Spreading the message of this new worldview to the rest of the system
Until we clearly identify who we are and what we stand for, we can’t expect others to see us and join us. The progressive portion of our society lacks a clear message and a unifying identity. We throw around words like liberal, progressive, leftist, freethinker, socially conscious global citizens, eco warriors, atheists — words that no longer point to anything. They are empty at best, and at worst they have become synonymous with lost causes and well meaning intentions that fail to produce results. Being labeled a liberal in American politics is tantamount to admitting irrelevance in the national dialogue.
If we are to compete in the marketplace of ideas, then we need to rebrand ourselves. We need to declare to the world what we stand for, why we stand for it, and what we’re going to do about it. We need to create a brand that draws new recruits to our cause. One that speaks with a clear voice, and with deep conviction. A brand that stands for something instead of just against something.
2. Historical Background
Part of the current problem is how we view ourselves. We have been told who and how we are by marketers, psychoanalysts, priests, and politicians. We are all told the same stories of kings and conquests, gods and pests. Amidst all the dates and the details we’ve lost track of what was actually happening. We need new lenses through which we can see ourselves and gain a new understanding of the journey we are on. How did we become these people? Where did we start and where are we headed? If we ignore battle dates and body counts, and instead focus on how humanity as a whole has unfolded, what can we learn about our tendencies? How can we evolve past the traits that are holding us back? Who do we hope to become in the future?
Once we understand ourselves and our moment in history we need to define our purpose. Far too few people ever ask themselves what their purpose is… fewer still come up with an answer. Most of us walk around on auto-pilot, repeating the purpose we’ve been sold — “Keep working so you can survive. Keep consuming to make you “happy”. Take care of yourself and your own, let others worry about themselves. ”
On and on we march with empty purpose, and we wonder why we feel like our lives lack meaning. Its because we haven’t put any meaning into our lives. We haven’t chosen a purpose to drive our life and actions. For a lot of people the deepest core variable that determines their actions, has been left undefined. An <empty field> in their Operating System.
It is for each of us to find our specific purpose. However there are clues as to what our purpose could be. Something that throughout philosophy and religion is touted as the one thing that works time and time again — Service. If you want to feel meaningful, be of service to someone other than yourself.
There is a reason the ten commandments are so powerful, and its not the power of their content, it is the power of the concept. Namely that there is a set of core principles to revert to when you are faced with difficult moral choices. A grounding set of code that enables us to make decisions in times of difficulty. Having clearly defined principles is a method for problem solving and acting. They allow us to understand what aligns with our nature and what will serve us in the impact we wish to have on this world. Each person will have their own set of principles that resonate with their experience, but we can easily express a set of principles that most people aspire to UPhold.
Deliberate Change comes from Purpose and Practice. Deciding what to be is one thing, but actually being it is another. Day in and day out. Change is hard, but it is possible. We need to teach ourselves how to turn our principles into action through our daily lives. A lot of human technology for how to go about this already exists, it just needs to be distilled and presented so people have easy entry points once they are activated to change.
Discovering people who are walking the same path is an enriching and empowering experience. Too often we are not shining our beacons bright enough for other people to see the path we are walking. Once we know how to identify ourselves, we will find each other, and in so doing we will find power and voice in community. We will discover that there are more of us than we thought, and that when we walk together on the path our light illuminates further and wider than when we were separate, and it will lead others to walk beside us.
If we want this worldview to have an impact in the current paradigm, its ideas must be packaged in the language of the times and distributed far and wide. Only by creating clear and emotionally persuasive communication can we reach those that are not yet aware of a different path.
The People Need a Union
By walking this path we accept the role we’ve played in perpetuating the established system. We choose to work on ourselves so that we may change our repetitions, thus helping others change theirs.
We acknowledge that we have an active part to play in shaping the world around us.
Get UP, and help others Get UP.