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2407. Plausible futures
Our current world is continuing to add social complexity on the surface of our planet that is not being well managed, maybe not even managed at all. Population, institutions, corruption, a struggling musical chairs middle class, militarism: this is the core of where we are. But there is more we need to be conscious of.
The future is not mostly a linear extension from where we are so we have to be careful. We are at the point where as things break down everyone is rushing for the exit from the present- looking for an entrance - but into what is unclear, even unknowable.
Can we free ourselves from the shared unwillingness to talk about what might happen, enough to follow up with a discussion of what to do? Changes will happen that force rethinking. The circle of co-living will expand with new arrangements. You and I will not be natives in that culture, but younger people will be at home there even if it is uncomfortable.
There are several plausible paths to the future that depend upon our choices
The first is an attempt to hold on. As we try market solutions and trying to motivate those with wealth to support innovation, these do not sale and run into resource problems. Vested interests will try to slow down any process of change which doesn’t put them in the front line. Meanwhile, perhaps a long meanwhile, the earth heats, migration wars are provoked, fires, floods, and plagues undermine the confidence many that we can economy our way out. This plausible scenario fits in with dystopian nightmares. It is seriously possible because we have no actionable plan as to what to do. We have policies but not actions. Cutting co2 means cutting its use, a use that pollutes the air and runs machines of, transportation, cooling and heating primarily. Stopping these means shutting down or curtailing those uses which means curtailing businesses and the heating and cooling of living spaces. But no one wants to be the first to say this must happen. So we drift downhill trying to hold on.
The second plausible path is the technologists’ dream: all evolving local data of production, consumption, and the health system will be summed up into big data and managed centrally with algorithms. This spiderlike system seizes the opportunity for its development from food production, where the use of land, fertilizer, water, seeds, soil conditions and needs are summed up and big data agribusiness owns the whole. Silicon Valley, most universities, and the banks want us to go there. This is serious. Gardenworld could be a part of this future since food and habitat will still be required. Thinking big, we need to be aware that the idea is afoot that we should give up on living outside and use our energy to heat and air condition and “purify” inside living. Think of Mars exported to earth. Techno-utopian vision is just an extension of Amazon being able to figure out what book you would most like next. Such a system can choose the congressperson who would best represent your desires better than you can. If you let the computer make your choices, what then do you have left of yourself?
The third path involves local reintegration of food and habitat. Anxious and hungry crowds could move rapidly to decentralization as the search for food rapidly becomes essential and hunger unbearable. Perhaps even direct democracy will emerge when their intent is to blend habitat and food production in attractive communities. I am calling this Gardenworld and I hope most people desire to be intelligent, educated and artistic, useful and in relationships. Jefferson’s “happiness” in the Declaration comes from the Scottish Enlightenment: the idea that the more happenings in your life, the greater the number of roles that engage your talents and connect you to reality: baseball coach for little league, assistant in Sunday service at your church, volunteer fire department, job, husband, father, voter. The modern tendency to read “happiness” as consumer bliss is way off from Jefferson’s. The dark side of localization would be local mafias giving people security in exchange for loyalty and work. We face these three paths, perhaps in combination. The problem with localization is it does not scale and leaves the planet heating. Some creative combination seems required
— Welcome to reality.
— Don’t worry, I am just passing through
— -Strauss’s Capriccio, 1941