last edited 7 May 2012
The Newcomer in Evolution -- Humankind growing up
This essay aims to make a credible link between the big picture of human history and a deceptively simple proposal that could dissolve the "problem of unemployment" and free the human spirit for a purpose higher than "making a living".
The post industrial economic system is offering to release human beings from economic bondage. Will society allow this, and turn towards the next evolutionary development?
Thinking about the future of civilization within an evolutionary time frame helps us to see the need for more than cosmetic improvements on current social arrangements. More of the same but a little bit better will not do in the future.
Life on earth is known to have existed for at least 3,000 million years. If we reduce the age of Life to one calendar year, Homo sapient is at most one hour old, and 'civilized' human existence is, at best, just over a minute old. Assuming that we, as a species, are not going to destroy ourselves, 99.9% of human existence is in the future.
This is how young humankind is!
No wonder it is so inexperienced in dealing with its shortcomings, with its limitations and its growing powers.
Nevertheless, it is destined to make or mar its own future.For humankind the future doesn't just happen; we create it by what we do or don't do now.
Human reality starts with a vision, an idea or ideal. The capacity of foresight in humans is a tremendous invention evolution is perfecting to replace the hit-or-miss, "suck it and see" method it used in the past. The propensity of humans to imagine the consequences of certain ways of behaving or of doing things without actually having to act it out, may well turn out to be nature's improved way of producing evolutionary development. It is true that our ability to run reliable "thought experiments" is very limited as yet. But most invention is primitive and hardly viable at first. Only the tenacious vision of the inventor ensures that it gradually 'evolves' to a stage where it is so reliable and convenient that we wonder how we lived without it.
Discuss or see introduction to Conscious Evolution.
Thus, we need to appreciate that humankind's career in evolution has hardly begun, and foster a positive creative mindset in "inventing our future".
The discussion that follows is intended to be understood in the foregoing context. The problems are raised in order to suggest solutions.
For most of its history the human race had been fighting for mere survival. This ancient fear of not securing enough life support is still evident even in the most sophisticated views of the practical world. Its most obvious manifestation is in the definition of economics as the science governing the allocation of scarce resources. This is also an example of a negative vision creating a corresponding reality where it seems obvious that only toil and strife stand between an adequate life style and destitution.
If human social reality is the product of belief systems, the problems of the post-industrial society stem from inappropriate beliefs leading to faulty interpretation how the world works here and now. Our bigest problem is that the ideas helpful in understanding the world, maintain their hold over the minds of opinion formers and decision makers long after the reality they reflected had ceased to exist.
This is why the notion of fundamental scarcity still dominates economic theorizing in spite of the fact that the rich nations regularly destroy, at great expense, masses of surplus resources consciously and intentionally. They also do this 'unconsciously' through following policies that lead to destruction by way of armed conflict, mostly of limited scale, but periodically on a world scale. To argue this in detail requires volumes that are available elsewhere and sceptics need to turn to them. (See, for example)
The truth is that post-industrial society is also a post scarcity society. Before the industrial revolution great civilizations had to build their assets by exploiting the labour of their politically ignorant masses. Industrialization was really a social evolutionary step away from this tradition. It released the ability to tap sources of energy unusable before and, through the development of science, the ability to invent increasingly efficient, powerful, and complex machinery to make use of the new forms of energy.
This process has continued at an exponential rate since the onset of industrialization. At the end of our century we talk not only about mechanization and automation but cybernation, miniaturization, and ephemeralization. We can make virtually anything in any quantity we desire. Why is it not obvious that there should be no need for anyone in the world to go without basic provisions necessary for a healthful lifestyle?
An outmoded belief system makes our success story into a threat to the survival of twenty-rirst century civilization. The world looks as though it were worse off at the end of the start of the new century than in the middle of the last one. And this in spite of technologies and industries at our disposal which were unimaginable in fifty years ago. An endemic and relentlessly increasing "unemployment threat" is seen as a "problem" through a belief system that was invented to explain a world where human brawn was the main source of power needed to accomplish necessary work.
Looked at through a more appropriate set of assumptions---reflecting the realities of self-regulating, intelligent machine systems and the global information society---unemployment is not a disease but the sign of a successful development that releases people in droves from imposed labour to be free to chose their own work. This is a precondition for the self organising process evolutionary scientists are investigating.
The challenge, then, as we look into the first few seconds of the new year in the life of our species (each second representing 95 real years), is to conceive of a vision that is worthy of the possibilities inherent in being a conscious partner in Life's future adventures.
The vision is a human family where sibling rivalry gives way to cooperation; where it is clear that there is enough life support to go round and give every sister and brother basic security from want without having to fight to secure it. The name of the game is no longer survival but the higher goal of developing dormant capacities and contributing the results to enhance the quality of life of the whole family.
Evolution produces increasingly complex life forms because vital metabolic functions are designed to take place without the organism having to pay conscious attention to carrying them out. Within the human species the automatic and taken-for-granted provision of individual basic needs will have the same liberating effect and will unleash the next evolutionary surge. True com-unity is a future development and its result, in thousands of years---the next few minutes in the life of Life, will be a meta-organism. As eukaryotic cells came together, during the dawn of Life, to evolve into metazoa---multicellular life forms, so human individuals will find ultimate fulfilment in co-creating great beings in order to experience new levels of existence.
Is this too fanciful? We do not know. But our vision has to measure up in some small degree to the task of foreshadowing the remaining 99.9% of humanity's evolutionary future.
There are many milestones on the way from here to there. The next one to be passed is that of achieving a society that finally abandons "economic conscription" and grants to its members unconditional freedom from the worries of securing the means of a modest but healthful living. It is no longer in doubt that everything we really need can be produced by designing and building hi-tech machine systems. The purpose of human life cannot much longer be reduced to mere economic survival when the need to make people into a 'factor of production' had disappeared long ago.
A huge raft of objections, entirely the result of wearing spectacles of outdated notions, is attracted by this proposition. One statement contains a bunch of these notions: "There's no such thing as a free lunch; why should individuals be given their quota of basic needs without expecting them to work for it in return?" Again, this vitally important debate goes on elsewhere and critics of this section are asked not to dismiss burden of this essay without appreciating the scope and depth of the lively debate around the many proposals for a guarantied basic income. See, for example, http://www.citizensincome.org.
A quick answer to the objection above is that, (a) everything necessary for life---air, sunshine, rain, the ecosystem, our self-regulating body-machine, love, hope, friendship---is free; and, (b) the real work of humans is, as stated before, to develop dormant capacities so that we can participate as conscious partners in Life's unfolding future. The cells in our bodies are provided with everything they need to do "their own thing" in harmony with each other: evolutionary society will grant the same essential freedom to us---conscious units of evolution.
Cybernation The combination of automation and computerized decision making to produce 'intelligent' production systems.
Ephemeralization Elimination of a material agency in producing desired effects (e.g. replacing cables by using electromagnetic spectrums or satellite links). Return
Eukaryotic cells 'Modern' cells with a nucleus enclosing DNA. They were essential for the evolution of the plant and animal kingdoms. Return
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