Today represents a break in my typical crypto Studies and Asshole Opinion About it to delve into something else that is a little bit deeper. Something I have thought about for a long time. I know beforehand this falls into my "Futurism Basket", and will likely not be as popular as some of my other stuff. Regardless, I will eventually tie the technology of crypto into this, because I do think the technology has a great potential application in this area.
If you're still reading, thanks. I hope you find this interesting, stimulating, and maybe a little bit... controversial.
THE COMMUNITY OF TOMORROW!
Welcome! My name is SkinnerCrypto, or as my stepfather used to call me, "Lazy Bastard". Oh yeah? Take a look at me now, "DAD". I'm super cool... ON THE INTERNET!
All levity aside, if you have read the intro on my account page, then you know that I have have some ideas for a Intentional Community Experiment. It's something I have been thinking about in at least some primitive form since I was kid, and it became something more refined as I continued to learn about what it takes to get there.
I don't kid when I say this; I have always wanted to change the world. It's almost platitudinous; to some it means to have delusions of self-importance and grandeur. To others, it is a trivial notion; If I decide to get up right now and take a shit on the carpet, I have technically changed the world in some way. To others still, it is a notion that requires nothing more than to be somebody to someone in your own life. While true and important, I don't watch enough Oprah to really feel the emotional impact on this last one. I want to change something important.
So... What is it that I wanna do? I want to solve problems. I want to solve nontrivial problems. I would prefer if one of those nontrivial problems that I solve just happens to be one that nobody else ever has. I think this comes from some deep seated desire to be recognized. I want to earn that recognition .I want to have my own page on WIkipedia. That's when I know that I have made it. Additionally, I would really enjoy having my son live in a world where things are better. 2020 has been a gleaming example of what better doesn't look like, and I think that a new take, maybe a bold move is necessary to try and find a way to do things better.
This is but possible one way I just MIGHT be able to do that. Either that, or I'm just chatting a little shit. Who knows?
THE SUPER IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER FOR THE SAYERS OF "NAY"
I by no means assert that this is a Utopian dream. In fact, I too personally think that achieving a True Utopian Paradise is tantamount to an exercise in naivete. Instead, I want to treat this as what I call an Asymptotic Utopia. What in the Flying Dicks is that, you ask?
Imagine for a moment that we were able to construct a graph with time t on the X-axis and some quantifiable cumulative measure of dissatisfaction of people in a community on the Y-Axis. It would look something like this:
I know, this is KINDA a potato visualization of the idea, but stick with me. As a general rule, complete harmony is simply incompatible with human nature. There will always be disagreement, conflict, or something else that we must contend with in a society. I would argue that a completely satisfied human society would look not like something from Star Trek, but something similar to Huxley's Brave New World. Oh no, that just would not do. Controversey in some form is the spice of life. The idea is to minimize it for the sake of societal stability, while maintaining that spark that makes humans... well, do human things. Think of it like this: You have a disagreement with your neighbor. In earlier human history, you might find that part of cumulative dissatisfaction would include say, killing your neighbor because he's a total bitch. As we move forward through time, we will find that in a world of increasingly miniscule cumulative dissatisfaction, talking out the disagreement in a civil manner is the order of the day.
And that's the ticket; Nope, True Utopia is effectively impossible. Slow but infinitesimal approach to zero dissatisfaction would be more realistic. There might be what I call the "Spikes of Strife" that would increase dissatisfaction at any moment due to the fact that life is unpredictable, but as long as the continuing trend is down, then we can see this as a net positive for the society as a whole. This leads me to.. let's call them Axioms 1 and 2:
1.) There will always be dissatisfaction among individuals in a society. Minimization of these dissatisfactions is possible.
2.) As we asymptotically approach zero dissatisfaction, the stability of a society increases.
Number Two is important. The ultimate goal would be to approach the state of a society where collapse would become a small, but nontrivial possibility.
That Which Ails Us, Defined.
I think that an understanding of the generalized issues of a human society should be readily understood before we get into the potential solution. After all, it is better to find a solution to a problem rather than find a problem for a solution.
All things being equal, what are the major issues that establish a measure of societal dissatisfaction on a global scale? In this context, I'm not referring to say, the ENTIRE WORLD, but using the word global a manner that is similar to what a programmer would call Global Variables, which are those that can be applicable inside and outside the local context of a function. In other words, these are issues that exist at the topmost level looking down. To make it easy, I call them the Macro-Societal Destabilizing Factors. Maybe that's not so easy, but that's the first thing I labeled it. One might also consider the following to be tropes of society that are often responsible for making society... circle the shitter drain unceremoniously.
These factors run counter to the goal of Axiom 2, and should be studied with care. Here's a summary of these factors:
Reverence of a Figurehead. Why do we have kings, presidents and dictators? It's simple, really, and I think it calls back to something fundamental in our evolutionary history. People tend to flock around the Charismatic. The Influential. Those who are perceived as strong in some context. Without delving into useless political commentary, I think it is uncontroversial to say that we see this everywhere from the Queen of England to US President Trump.
Their panache, while not universally accepted is often enough to make them liked or revered by many. This turns the tides of elections. It wins wars. It keeps the group safe from saber-toothed tigers because it allows coherence and confidence of action to take place, orchestrated by a single source. It's powerful. In short, while this factor does serve its purpose in many contexts, it also has the remarkable ability to be a double edged sword for a human society. The first reason is because power tends to corrupt. An individual in the position of Revered Figurehead has the power to move people and to get things they desire accomplished. One doesn't need to look further than World War II and the atrocities committed in the names several leaders. Figurehead Reverence can be dangerous.
Social Stratification. People are but a living, breathing sieve. The largest and most influential tend to stay at the top with others who are similar, and they tend to be the few, relatively speaking. Those below them get smaller and less influential, until we reach what's left at the bottom. It can be said with relative certainty that this pattern tends to follow what is called a Pareto Distribution, informally known as the rule of 80/20. In this context, it means that the top 20% largest and most influential will hold about 80% of the power and resources in a society. This simply happens naturally, and I would be remiss to suggest I have a definitive answer as to why it happens.
If I were backed into a corner and forced to make a suggestion, I would say that groups of people are highly complex stochastic phenomena. In Down-To-Earth words, I mean that human interactions in a group are complicated and seemingly random. A small change here can lead to bigger changes there over time. Efficiencies can be snatched upon and opportunities risked. Those who find these in a group will be the ones who tend towards the top. From there, subsequent lower tier efficiencies and opportunities take root and define the stratification. In short, risk taking and pragmatism tend to make society on all levels.
Why is this considered a destabilizing factor? The same reason can be cited for reverence of a figurehead; abuse of power and desire. The smallest in society, spurned by the perceived state of their lives, wish for better. If they are oppressed, they revolt. It's a dynamic you see Karl Marx (YEAH I MENTIONED MARX HOLD ON A DAMN MINUTE) speak of in his notions of Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. While I do not subscribe to the historical determinism of Marx that suggests such a state of affairs invariably leads to revolution, I can agree that within the context of social stratification, this does sometimes occur. And no guys, I'm not a Communist. I'm merely pointing out the parallels I see here. Marx had a point, even if the line he drew from that point was ultimately incorrect.
The Many Versus The Few, or The Individual Versus The Society. This is possibly one of the most important destabilizing factors. We have seen a taste of it in the themes of the folks marching on their local governments to demand relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. The individual can often be at odds with the society. Similarly, a minority can be at odds with a majority. This is a fundamental problem, and spurred ethical theories such as utilitarianism. Is the welfare of the group more important than the welfare of the individual? If 100 people could live from the sacrifice of one person, should that sacrifice be without question? These are the issues that make up the The Many Versus The Few, and these tend to be among some of the most important issues we see in a society. Disagreement on the proper actions have - and invariably will - cause schisms in societies. This is why a label it as a destablizing factor.
Tribalism. Especially in today's zeitgeist, it is clearer than ever; people have a remarkable ability to draw the line between US and THEM. It's that simple. Find a divisive issue, and suddenly you have two teams who are willing to jerk each other off, but not willing to do the same for the guys on the other side. Splits due to politics, perceived injustices, or even differences in fundamental beliefs are littered through our history.
This makes sense when you think about it. In much the same way that Reverence of a Figurehead; it provides coherence in the actions and identity of a societal structure; common ground and bonding among the group. Those on the outside are second rate when it comes time to dole out trust. Similarly, Tribalism is the source by which things such as exceptionalism, patriotism and patriotism's uglier cousin - Nationalism and Jingoism - tend to find their source. Us and Them, despite the commonalities, is a double edged sword for a functioning community and its inescapable interactions with other communities. One might look no further than the famous Robbers Cave Experiment to see that this is true.
The Beginning of a Solution.
Having seen on a large scale the types of things that tend to bring humans down, is there anything that can be done to make this change? This brings me to Axiom 3, which I would consider to be hilariously ironic:
3.) People are mostly horrendously bad at managing themselves in a group.
Seems obvious, right? If we can agree on this, then we might be able to agree that in order to keep a society alive and make it thrive, we gotta find a way to keep ourselves out of our own hands as much as possible. Until recently in our history, I would argue that it was impossible to do these things. More on this later.
In order for group of people to become a long term stable society by Axiom 1, I think there's some major things that must stand as the foundation:
- Despite it imperfections, the methods of science is the single most reliable way for us to understand what the fuck is going on around us.
- Technology is the fruit of science, and it continues to produce pragmatic, reliable results.
- Through our technological advance, we find and have found ways to make life better. Through these both, we can mitigate Macro-Societal Destabliziation factors.
- Through our search to make life better, we must temper it with humanity.
- That which can be made objectively better, should be made better.
Conclusion to This Primer
This is just the beginning of a long time of thought and reflection that may or may not sit well with my reader. Above all, I think that we can agree despite our nation of origin, or skin color, our religious beliefs, or our orientations that things can be made better, and SHOULD be. The problems we see are not something esoteric and beyond reach, but real things which can be solved. Further work is to be done, but the next parts of this series will include:
1.) Governance, Economics, automation, and the role of modern blockchain and consensus technologies that can streamline it.
2.) The meeting of fundamental needs of people through technological advance.
3.) Infrastucture and efficient architectural design of the experiment.
4.) Roadblocks of Experiment implementation.
Thanks for reading.