Slides presented at the Art / Earth / Tech (Life Itself) sprint on 12 April 2017. This reflects early thinking on a more detailed explanation of purpose of Life Itself and the logic for its existence. Note these are my personal views and may not reflect those of everyone else!
Sketches of a Future Society – 12 April 2017 @ La Cheraille
Why? Why What?
Why Art / Earth / Tech?
This will take us on a much deeper journey
Asking Good Questions
SCQA = Situation, Complication, Question, Answer
We’ve never had it so good!
Things have got a lot better materially and science and technology mean we know a lot more about the material world
- A good portion of humanity no longer want for food or shelter.
- Consequence of dramatic material and technological growth of the last few centuries
But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is very unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards (global warming, inequality etc)
- Many remain poor and without basic security of sustenance or thought
- Benefits of material abundance for the well-off seem relatively meagre — the Buddhist monk is happier than the billionaire
- Greater wealth and power has not come with greater wisdom. Our errors now play out on a larger scale — from aggression exaggerated by biological and nuclear weapons to the tragedy of commons threatening the entire biosphere.
- Things may even be going backwards: ecological damage, inequality, decline of community etc
- though one must always be sceptical — "everything has been going to the dogs" is an old complaint
Additionally: "end of vision / end of hope / end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress seem to have faded whether in religion and politics:
- Decline of hopeful religion ~150y – death of god
- Decline of hopeful politics ~30-40y – death of socialism
- Politics reduced to managerialism for growth (but growth of what)
- Postmodern disdain for vision and values (just leave me alone to choose, triumph of the "dispassionate" market)
- Resurgence of a "selfish", resentful rightwing
- Why is this? Specifically:
- If you’re so rich, why aren’t you so happy …?
- Why can’t we cooperate better
- And: What is to be done?
- Is there a powerful, unifying vision for humanity — both personally "the good life", and societally "the good society"?
- How would we achieve that?
- What is our theory of change?
- How do we get started?
- Situation: You’ve never had it so good!
- Complication: But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards
- Complication II: death of god, death of socialism aka "end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress have faded whether in religion or politics
- Question: Why is this? What and How: What is to be done?
Spiritual version: We are all Buddha, but our minds are encrusted with delusion, hatred and anger.
Scientific version: evolution did not select for wellness or wisdom, but for survival fitness. Extraordinarily, and accidentally, we ended up with consciousness, self-reflection and enough cognitive capacity to develop language, culture and complex abstract thought — and meditation.
- lot of stuff encrusts our mind that is tough to remove
- impulsivity (thinking fast), heuristics, envy etc
- illusion of self distinct from others, that "I" am my thoughts etc => attachment to views (I’m right, you’re wrong e.g. I’m a man, you’re a woman so I’m better than you; I’m white, you’re black etc)
- Plus: all the errors of language and culture (erroneous but self-reinforcing (bad equilibrium)
- e.g. institutionalized patriarchy
- ritualized warfare
- wearing suits
4 kinds of problems
- Problems of science
- Problems of self knowledge
- Problems of self control
- Problems of the collective
All our techno-scientific advance in recent centuries has only helped with first one.
Transformation of being
- Wellness ourselves
- Solve: collective action problems etc
But society/culture helps create being. + Material sustenance matters.
So transformation of being requires transformation of society.
What II – The Good Life
Yes, I believe there is a powerful unifying vision for humanity.
A. High level ends: Joy, freedom, love, wisdom, creativity, balance, peace, contribution … B. Conditions for that — as well!
Buddhism — 4NT. Basically correct.
However, for reasons just discussed this is hard individually.
Second, hard culturally since a variety of successful, maladaptive cultures e.g. competitive, individualistic, capitalism.
Two Arms of Transformation
Culture and Ecosystem
A sustainable cultural ecosystem depends on a well-functioning (and interdependent) material and spiritual economies (spiritual = being, emotion, consciousness — nothing specifically religious)
To realise a wiser, weller world requires:
- Personally: a self-sustaining community that support self-development and material sustenance => a culture
- Societally: a self-sustaining group dedicated to bringing about change on a long-term basis with a clear vision and strong values (resistance to corruption) => a culture
- Values (and Vision)
Sketches of a Future Society => detailed picture of what this looks like.
Life Itself (Art / Earth / Tech)
We are such a community.
- Being: living well and wise lives ourselves, developing our being
- Research: work out where we need to go (in detail) and how to get there
- Business: making a living, generating resources for investment
- Politics: (not necessarily electoral) structured effort to effect change in the collective
Part of wisdom is to avoid sacrificing means to ends. Thus all activities are themselves part of the practice.
- Need for change
- Deep transformation needed
- Art Earth Tech
Opportunity / Context
Metaphor of scientific revolution
… and possibility of psychic revolution
- What’s new about us? (aka hasn’t this been done before?)