Go read one of the most important books in the past twenty years, Robert Wright’s Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny: "...you can capture history's basic trajectory by reference to a core pattern: New technologies arise that permit or encourage new, richer forms of non-zero-sum interactions" and "social structures evolve that realize this rich potential -- that convert non-zero-sum situations into positive sums. Thus does social complexity grow in scope and depth."
Our entire Enlightenment Experiment has been about positive sum games.
Open-competitive Economic Markets, Science, Democracy… these are all
examples of systems set up to harness competition and produce positive
sum results for all.
See my article, The Unlikeliness of a Zero Sum Society.
Alas, there are forces in human nature that
always trend toward ruination of such systems. Winners tend not to want
to compete as hard, next time, so they use their wealth and power to
cheat! It is called oligarchy; the very thing that wrecked markets and
democracy and science in all past cultures. Every single last one of
would only read the "First Liberal" -- Adam Smith -- and realize this, they might drop both
the left and right and stand up for the balanced market that emphasizes
small business, startups and brash-competitive creativity, instead of
monopoly, corporatism, state-paternalism and aristocracy.
Heck, if our ancestors could stand up and save the Enlightenment during their crises… so can we.
Then take a look at Niall Ferguson's new book Civilization: The West and the Rest.
Ferguson appraises some of the reasons that civilizations fail, a topic
that Jared Diamond surveyed (with a bit too obsessive a focus only on
environmental causes) in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed... and that I take a Big Perspective on, in my next novel, Existence.
In his article, Western Civilization:Decline or Fall?, Ferguson describes how he sees our way out of a "decline of the west:"
we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system:
the anti-competitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from
banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and
soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the
lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special
interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional
system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our
newfound unemployment ethic."
In other words, break free of the
hobbling/crippling, oversimplifying metaphors like "left-vs-right" - a
curse bequeathed on all thinking, by the French Revolution - and get
back to acting like intrepid grownups again.
Open Source Ecology: Following the DIY "maker" trend, one ad-hoc group is producing open source modular plans to
the 50 different industrial machines necessary to build a civilization
-- or at least provide a self-sustaining village with basic comforts.
The basic fifty include: backhoe, bulldozer, baler, wind turbine, cement
mixer, electric motor, steam engine, dairy milker, baker oven, aluminum
extractor from clay, and bioplastic extruder, among others. The more
complicated ones build upon the simpler ones. In northern Missouri, they
have used their compressed brick press and tractor to build a
manufacturing facility to construct more models.
Marchin Jabukowski (TED Senior Fellow) is a Physics Ph.D., who dropped
out to work on this project. His orientation is post-scarcity society
rather than disaster, but if one were wanting to create a generalized
resiliency rather than prepare for specific movie scenario plots, it
would be a good place to start. See his TED talk: Open Sourced Blueprints for Civilization.
See the WaterWheel, a stunningly simple innovation that could improve lives in the developing world -- particularly for rural women who may spend hours trekking and carrying water in jugs back to their villages. This is an invention that deserves funding to spread. See the website, Wello.
now, Open Source Ecology is teaming with WikiSpeed to build an open
source, modular, configurable electric car with high fuel efficiency that meets
U.S. safety standards.
Seems related to a TV series I was pitching
for some years, to start with contestants wearing loin cloths in the
desert, challenge them to make stone tools, then leather, and eventually
smelt metal, etc. The show? REBUILD EVERYTHING!
Picture "Survivor" meets "The 1900 House" meets "Junkyard Wars"... then
throw in lots of fascinating Discovery Channel riffs... along with a
dash of "The Flintstones". Include some tasty inter-tribal rivalry, and
add a sensation that viewers are actually learning something of value,
becoming a little more capable and knowing about their own culture.
the ultimate challenge, competitive teams race each other, starting
from scratch to rebuild civilization! Instead of just surviving, they
must chip flint, make spears and arrows and traps, stitch clothing from
hides (no animals will be killed directly by the show). Once the Stone
Age has been conquered, contestants move on to re-invent pottery,
weaving and agriculture -- then mining and smithing copper ore, then
bronze, iron and so on. Each next step must be taken by using
technologies achieved at the previous level.
Once they succeed at a
task, it is assumed that their “civilization” (their team) has that
technology from then on. They will be provided any tools they require
from that level, in order to attempt the next.
four ending with them chugging up-river on a built-from scratch
steamboat, prospecting for ores to make the first TV....
==Threats to Civilization==
I portray the rich buying up small island nations that are doomed by
rising tides, then building stilt cities on those nations, who already
have legal international sovereignty. Now see the beginnings: leaders
of the Pacific archipelago Kiribati are considering moving the entire population
to Fiji, as their islands are threatened by rising ocean levels. When
you see stilts rising over there, know that I told you first.
have overseen the largest wealth re-allocation in history: The US has
transferred 7 TRILLION dollars to Middle Eastern nations in exchange for
oil. Ponder that. And the bosom pals of middle-eastern potentates who
ran the US for many years, undermining all efforts to get off of the oil
Now T. Boone Pickens is back touting natural gas...
of which North America apparently has a vast supply... as a way to
break that habit. Sure it is still fossil/carbon fuel (though better
and cleaner than oil). But it might serve as our “bridge” in order to
both do better and keep some of our money, to invest in the true
solution technologies of the future. Pickens will stand to make big
bucks if we go along with his plan.
But at least we’d know what we are
buying - a deal that makes sense, unlike the total sellout of our
children that happened in the first decade of this century.
==See more articles on Enlightenment Civilization: Looking Forward not Back