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Gardenworld Politics Chapter 9 -Shards. draft
These are short pieces that do not (yet) fit in the main text but help expand the themes
Is treated as an obviou property of successful economic statey, but what is left unanalyzed but assumed is the efficiency of ncreasin mony, not o the production of good and happy people and leaves out the environment and society as frameworks.
ErichFromm on human nature
There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual.... However, if the economic, social and political conditions... do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.
— Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom
A key issue for society is how it creates the kind of people that society needs.
Erich From built a theory of social character - shared character. Our biological capacity to live in society must meet the needs of taking in, , staying clean, reproducing. But the way these are done is cultural. Getting up in the morning and getting ready (I need my coffee to function), working eight hours a day, “spending” time spending what we earned, buying from those to whom we gave out work - is a hard to achieve, and obviously problematical, outcome of socialization within a capitalist society where some own and others work for them.
Gardenworld requires a high degree of interdependence where hoarding and cheating are going to be punished by the group. Instead of being hidden in an office, what people do will be more visible.
Our current character has been formed in a society of privilege or family breaking poverty, with no church for solace. Those who more or less run the country and its institution, say the top 30%, are self satisfied and expect to remain so. Wishes are commands to the system, and the system encourages new wishes. If many of see a way to buy food or a house cheaper, we will take it, not looking at the system of consequences.
It is much more in our character to ask “is this cheap?” rather than to ask “is this fair to all?”
We have developed a go-along character rather than a skeptical reflective curious character. It might suggest that we will have a hard time adjustingto the character needs for the coming decade or two. Gardenworld supports lose but nurturing family community and self. Community and appreciation of life world, beauty. Along with appreciation comes service, expanding the possibilities for others - all others.
It starts as digital, the hand, not the heart. The word digit is for counting and obviously comes from fingers. System base ten. The point is that computing is an extension of some aspects of the body but not others. Fingers are relatively differentiated. The passions are more fluid. The digital morphed into the elegance of open hand, closed hand is binary’ Yes, no. Here, not here. The pathology of the Western mind can be seen in its tendency to impose this yes no on everything.
Big data is good at finding the things many of us have in common, even if only slightly. But is terrible at giving any weight to something that pertains to only one or a few people.
Big data, by being analytic about what you do - channels watched, articles read, movies. Can predict which of the twenty democratic candidates most represents your view, preferences, interests (these are not the same), better than you can. So, says the smart new hire, lets propose that google votes for you. It will be more accurate.
Computing as basis for the internet will be very important for Gardenworld. As localization develops to further food and people, learning across communities will be importnat for sharing ideas and outcomes. . It can also be used to coordinate repression. There lies the danger.
Culture.The US had a culture called often the american dream - ambiguous because dream implies not realized in material conditions.
The dream is the house, some garden, a married couple, a few children and pets, a TV, a vacation in the US - mountains or seaside.
The problem is population has pulled this dream apart, with the aid of technologies, ambitions, and a passive congress.
The belief system is a culture that moves to the point of being a religion - a way of life that conveys meadning even a religion.
It is being destryed beaue of lack of solid job,s faing education for chilred, infrastructure near collapse. This is threat to the core sense of life - this american dream. In response to this destruction of a way o flife people ae angry.
Intelligence intuition senses memory.
The American Home. Handlin
The snall house, the place of gortex
Chomsky and a few others.
Cultures in Common, the commons, what’s wrong with Hardin..
Freedom, need for philosophy here.
Darwin and evolution.
He is terrific but the use is conservative. Evolution means pre figured. People imagine that evolution means convergence toward something. Just the opposite - genetic modifications create always many new possibilities.
In physics, if we drop the glass we hold, physics tells us much about that will happen. “Evolution” does not tell us abut what the next species, the next evolution, will be. In this way it is a fundamentally different kind of theory. This didffeence is ignored in economics and other social sciences and in discussions of scientific method and goals.
A long discussion in philosophy has been about law - is it in us to be good? The other side of this discussion has been to say, no, the good that is in us is because we are socialized to be this way.
It is another false opposition between two positions that are both correct. We have deep tendencies, for survival, for - by the time evolution gets us to be mammals - caring for young and often, as many animals show, for mates, and in herding animals protecting the flock against predators, horns outward from the circle toward the lions. Culture elaborates on these tendencies, creating new arraignments. The greek eco-nomy contain nomos which, before it became a general abstract term meaning law originally in pre classical Greek mean equal distribution1. A concept is not developed unless it does some needed work. In this case equal distribution is affirmed probably in the face of a tendency to unequal distribution. We should do as well now.
Where does a preference for equal distribution come from? Hunter gatherers already had it, and settlement nudged toward fences and mine-thine, so the law was used to ty to keep the original idea of community. This was consistent with the idea of the sacrifice, maintaining the fact of the kill with a ritualized procedure of division among the community. Plato’s view was that law was built in, like geometry. Geometry just can’t be wrong, nor can “the good.” From this view natural law is what is given. Piaget’s more modern view is that the child can see the world from the perspective of another. (The child is asked how the table looks from the point of view of a doll at the other end). Piaget said this ability to take the view of the other plus compassion is the strata on which an ethical system emerges. Key here is that the result - lawful a feeling for the law - is an evolution, a development, of the mind in relation to its experience of the world. This is a more fragile view and require renewal and defending.
Air earth fire and water - sensual, touchable, tastable even. Science has replaced these with atoms, fields, forces: vast numbers of invisible things. Science tells us more about the end of the world as the sun dies 5 billion years from now than it does about the poetry of sun rising tomorrow. Beware of science. It serves power and war more than parents and children.
At Caltech I hung around Feynman who saw science as an aid to expanding experience of the world. He was not interested in the mere representation of data, but of the sensuous feeling from watching in the imagination the contact of electrons with photons.
Later I spent a lot of time with Jerry Letvin at MIT, and he taught us that the red tinted oil on the cones of some field birds could not be understood by centrifuging the oil for a spectrum analysis, but by going into the field with a piece of red cellphone and seeing revealed grasshoppers. He taught us that to understand the actions of an amoeba under a microscope as we attacked it with a probe we needed all the understanding of human drama: fear, counter-attack, puzzlement, to understand what the amoeba was doing.
When Lee and Yang won the Nobel for experiments at Brookhaven costing a few million, the lab I was an assistant in created the experiment for the afternoon physics colloquium for a few hundred, including shop time.
Since then I have wondered how much of our understanding of the world could be inference rather than experiment. Light goes through glass, what does that tell us? Many animals survive and many die young. What does this tell us? The sky is blue in the day and black at night. Why is the sky blue but the sunset is orange and yellow?
I wold like to take this kind of thinking into archeology, anthropology and psychoanalysis. I sometimes say to economists. Can you imagine a time when economics regards novel as very necessary and legitimate empirical evidence about humans? Thought, imagination and experience.
Words have been given a lot of atention beasue thy point to what was nomis, cap, and what could be.
Earth and humans are clearly separate but this is not true for humans and nature. I often use the phrase integrating humans and nature, I am mostly aware of the awkwardness of this language.
wetlans long befoe planting and sedentary klives. Against the grain.
A mixture of love and lust, and leading to more births, which are wonderful yet more than we can handle. What to do?
Repression probably won’t work,
Shifting to organized lust probably won’t work
The realty is it will always be a problem.
Gender and social..
The role of clothes. We think we see each other, in fact 95% is covered up like the body of a car hiding the engine.
Human cultural evolution has been one long string of examples of the law of unexpected consequences. We invent agriculture, which leads to food surpluses, which leads to job specialization, and before you know it, we’ve invented socioeconomic status, the most crushing way of subordinating the low ranking that primates have ever seen. We invent sedentary dwelling and permanent structures, and soon we’re dealing with the public health consequences of something no self-respecting primate would ever do—living in high-density populations in close proximity to its feces. We domesticate wolves into being companions, and soon we’re dressing up our dogs in Halloween costumes and buying Pet Rocks. The emergence of modern humans has generated some surprising twists and turns.
Paul Ehrlich, Jaws, from the introduction bhy Sapolsky.
Innovations in nature are tried out in complex real environmanets, human innovation tend to seek out a path of payoff without testing in more than one or two environemnts. Mkoking, cars, planes, ..
Inovations are proposed, funded, implemented, but never teested agains the needs of society.
Modern music and art, cocoran
1 see the earlier discussion in chapter 1.
Ep Thompson Customs in Commn
The awkward future.
As of now, late 2021, ther is not plan for cutting co2 sufficiently to stop and reverse global warming and its extended consequences. We are part of a culture that overuses extraction and the earth cannot replenish. So as of now we cannot stop the heating of the earth and the continuation of heating. We must support local efforts at creting food and habitat but also orgnize to force the oil companies, agribusiness and manufacturing to radically cut activities tht use fissile fuels.
whT TO SO, A CONVERSATION
Politics has been making a slow shift from big man leadership to democracy. I have written that the last few hundred years, since Napoleon, can be seen as in the period of an incomplete French Revolution, even a counter revolution, as the powerful are regaining feudalistic control, corporations as feudal estates. I have been in the headquarters, including president’s offices in IBM. HP, Merck , Bell Labs, and smaller. The fortress like structure of Apple ‘s headquartersis another good example.
All this is very difficult for the future which most of us hope will be increasingly democratic. Democracy allows minority voices to participate, and that means it is hard to have a dedicated adequate policy for say reducing co2, because factions force compromises and compromises by their nature are but compromised solutions.
If we think the future will be a mix of local initiatives and control along with and an internet that connects them all to share what they have learned. Then the political structure Is yet to be worked out.
Politics, the working out of conflicts not dealt with by law or economy, gets ignored but is crucially important. It will be as the current economy goes through its adaptations to climate change, a change that is likely to force reassessment of all assets in society. This will not be a completely peaceful project. Bt it will have to be a major aspect of GardenWorld
This section will discuss how reactions from below were used by sections within the elites but never became an independent force. Sometimes the below had its way but rarely, and only in times the state or equivalent was threatened by larger forces.
What are the implications for GardenWorld? What kind of politics. The whole spectrum, from monarchy to anarchy need to be considered. This chapter should legitimate the view that we are in a period of retrenchment from the failed French Revolution. The American experiment in “revolution” is a phase in that retrenchment.
Gary Wills Inventing America. The core idea is that The US is an invention to meet certain criteria. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If the goals ae not achieved the implication is we have the right to rethink the structures of the invention.
A problem however is that Jefferson’s stated goals are all about rights and there are no constraints. “Do your own thing” fits but care for others and the commons is not included.
China has the emperor subject to the mandate of heaven. If he fails to deliver good for society he can be removed. In the US the people can remove the president but there is no sense that there is a social purpose, oly individual rights.
Humanities, science and technology.
It is vey hard to interest young people who are drawn to online activity, especially war centered
gaming”, in iterature or hisotry.
Science is a phase in the history of art
science is one of the great humanities.
Curiosity as a defense. Weir at Caltech. More emotionally responsive, not less, but need to hide vulnerability.
The role science played in the evolution of economics. Quantity and calculation rather than understanding. Why did this happen? Great culture is human centered with recognition of the larger sense of space and time.
Giedion, Ellul, Kandinsky.. Miro..
Temporal distance needed for science, but not for life.
Actually that is bad science. Tech wants reflection at a distance and intimately simultaneously. This is art.
The drive to invent was a replacement for a drive to relate.
This chapter should show tech in the context of a selection of aspects of reality, praxis and power. Compare technical evolution - fats with biological slow except when.. Issues of beauty, awe. Ideas from Jaques Ellul, Leo Marx, Siegfried Giedion, Mumford
Next some thoughts about technology. Tech is the extension of the human body and mind - this is conventional thought. It also is the suppressor of the human body and mind. War, prisons, invading technologies which make us passive (inability of young people to be able to add or write). Surveillance is scary, people retreat to conformity. Amazon is moving toward sending me books it thinks I may want and I can send them back no charge if I don’t. Here is a fantasy.
You get a note from your iPhone this afternoon reminding you of a meeting you have in two days. The note says a driverless Uber will pick you up at 1 in the afternoon, conveniently after lunch, to take you to the meeting. (Place unspecified click for more information). Also here are attached two papers you should read before you arrive. In tow days, after some more warning, the car is in front of your house and shortly you arrive at the meeting in a place you have never been (click for more information). You walk into the meeting - all formalities handled by your iPhone and electronic badge. You listen, are invited t4o make a few comments, and get a message on your phone “A driverless Lyft will pick you up at and take you to a hotel as at commute time traffic would take too long to drive you home. We have arranged for dinner at 7 and arranged a date for you. Have a good evening Your loyal Everywhere Concierge.) The next morning picked up and driven home.
Very convenient, but you were never engaged as a person, yet armies of young are working to make this a reality.
Tech is complicated. We have never been able to figure out how to integrate it with democracy but are market rather than democratic procedures of a decision, one dollar one vote.
The earliest compounds - walls around a collection of huts- wee long considered means for keeping others out, to avoid their stealing crops, cattle, woman and children.
That Turns out those walls were to keep prisoners in and early humans fought hard to stay outside. Inside was a loss of diet, freedom to move, slave labor (how much of modern society is like this?)
Chapter 8. Technol
In the flow of technology and power, money and status, in a bath of fear and insecurity, empires clashed and millions died in the 20th century. It is hard to recall the scale of those events, given that contemporary events, such as Iraq, Grenada, Afghanistan, are so much smaller in scale, and even Katrina was small in comparison to the great wars of the last century. But huge movements are afoot today, stalking in like Eliot’s London fogs. The flow of digitalized property, dominance of financial institutions, people pushed off the land, and the promises of new bio and nanotechnology are flooding our old expectations. Space, time and life are redefined. Not what they are, but what we do with them. Those with money gvaccinated, those without, much less..
Obvious tech will be a major part of a successful GardenWorld, but how? I take as a model the career of Fredrick Law Olmstead who used parks in Boston, New York, and others as the liver and kidneys and lungs of the cities that surrounded his parks. He used the capacity of nature to clean the environment. But he also enhanced the beauty of each project and made it a real extension of the quality of life of the people. Try to imagine Manhattan without Central Park.
If we think of Olmsted's approach to the aesthetics of the land and its use of the technology of his decades, we now face many more choices. We have probably overused cars and roads, but autonomous cars widely owned may reverse this in interesting ways. Air traffic is out of control and greener fuel use not yet obviously achievable.
But there are many other parts of tech in GardenWorld. The Internet will allow, among other things not so terrific, the sharing of best practices across decentralized communities. Humanity is much more aware of innovation and imagination in all things, and this is being applied to an increasing range of organic practice, in food production and decorative gardens. Standard agricultural and landscape practices are going to be vigorously modified.
The human species is successful, to the point of outdoing itself. We are in a terrible balance between the technologies of living and the technologies of war, and between tech that serves special interests and what serves the general good. GardenWorld is aimed at creating the conditions for a better balance, with much less war, and a meaningful approach to population and climate. Which means being smart about energy and agriculture, water and pollution. Technology is not going away and it will either be used to further centralize power and authority or to help open it up, as in the promise of the Internet and be a major part of GardenWorld. This chapter is not going to be a Whole Earth Catalogue of potential GardenWorld technologies, but a framing for essential tech choices in the context of politics, economics, and human nature. It is obvious that tech and community are in many ways almost the same topic. because no tech will take hold unless it is attractive to actual humans with their desires and ideas, their culture and image of life.
Integration of humans and nature
Tech has evolved rapidly, in a process probably still accelerating. In this context, tech has taken the role of religion, a belief in an all-powerful force that can save us. On the extreme, we have writings like Brian Arthur’s 2009. The Nature of Technology: What it is and How it Evolves. and Kevin Kelly’s 2010 What Technology Wants. Both look at technology as evolving without human participation, as if parts of tech automatically unite. Obviously, this cannot happen unless humans see the potential of a new combination of technologies, and that means a better understanding of what is on the minds of those humans. The Aztecs had wheeled chariots as toys for kids but did not make adult models for work. Why? because humans would rather fit in than innovate.
But “fitting in” is not just a blind reaction to circumstances. It is feeling good about belonging by getting in step with the dance of one’s civilization. It is conversation, rhythms of work and the day, it is relationships in all their complexity. Those who choose to innovate in the traditional world are doing something quite strange and Of course, serious innovation did not appear until quite late, perhaps the 13th century. The innovator’s world is often lonely and, as a social mechanism, relies on the single inventor and the small market that is attracted. Innovation makes small moves that are isolated from the rest of society, and society becomes an ensemble of such small moves. Anything like democracy doesn’t apply to the paths that emerge. “One dollar one vote,” goes the logic, but the outcome can be a random walk away from the centrality of human concerns, starting with survivability - witness climate change through fossil fuels - and the resulting system is a hodge-podge of incommensurate pieces and fragile to shock and maintenance problems.
The cleverness of innovation is not a high priority for most people in a society. A small percentage enter into the financing, the banks and venture capitalists and a very small percentage are producing the actual innovation, motivated usually by money. The broader society is indifferent, just trying to live their life with a desire for a background of stability. Advertising enters in as an industry trying to link innovation to customers an take their cut from the money flow. Though it must be said that retirement funds are dependent on that financial activity, which makes a large part of the population complicit in the necessity for growth. How much pension funds can live on dividends and not on "growth" is a good question.
The drive for innovation probably only becomes a strong motivator when the innovator is in some state of alienation from society. To get the best of society and innovation aligned we need a heightened awareness of the purpose of innovation beyond ego and money.
What we need is a commitment to reworking the integration of nature and humans and then the technology that will be needed to support that integration will be more obvious.
But we do not have a good vocabulary for that integration. Even the words fail us. Just as “law” is used in most cultures for both the basis for the legal system and the regularities of nature, we are facing ideology masked as words. Nature, human, human nature… They don’t get at what we want, which is a recognition that human nature is part of nature but not reducible to a mechanical view of what nature is: that who we are is profoundly interrelated, with air, water, soil, geography, love, literature, and meanings. Think of Jarrad Diamond’s Guns, Germs, Steel, showing how human fate and large geographical features are defining for human possibilities.
Our ability to be reflective, relatively underdeveloped or at least underutilized, gives us the capacity to play out the integration in a way faithful to both. Surely the better human is in better connection to the environment inside and out, body and earth. Our thoughts are supported by our body which is supported by the environment, which is affected by what we do. It is a complex circle from the environment through our body and mind and back.
GardenWorld is not an anti-technology project. There are too many of us, and it is too late. We need the smart use of technology in all forms: biotech and nanotech at the lead, with an Internet infrastructure. Most of us have hoped that the Internet would be an infrastructure for democracy allowing us to take place seriously without giving up the cosmopolitan world of serious interaction with other people and societies. But we also have our worries. One danger of the Internet is that it encourages democracy for all online, but may support a political and economic process that leads to democracy for none in the real world of jobs, land, food, energy, security, and services.
The standard alignment of technology with “progress” is unfortunate. Progress is highly aligned with growth for the sake of profit. It is a smokescreen for hiding the social costs of change, change that often leads to wars, pollution, and the trashing of communities. The processes of change really are supported and encouraged by a small part of the population. This argument is hard here because most of the readers of this book are in that minority, a minority that makes its living through inventing, implementing, selling and maintaining change.
The idea of progress, with its thrust toward the future, makes all "present” less interesting, discountable. Reproducing the present is not a project of much good for those who live by growth alone.
Aristotle wrote, "we can have growth without development (adding water to wine) and we can have development without growth." The better picture might be, not progress, but selection. How do we select from what we have what we really want, and make more of it? It might be leisure, art, relationships and thinking about the meaning of life and our own contribution to it. If we could free up technology from “progress” we could use it to enhance life, not replace it.
Part of this is the political question of who decides and who benefits. Elites have always used tech to control and exploit the population, win wars and look good. This will not go away but it is open to pressure, including revolts, to rebalance.
The issue of balancing so that the environment and humans both survive – and thrive – will require smart design and lots of tolerance in policymaking. Bucky Fuller once wrote "we have the planet and a few billion people. Putting them together is just a design problem." But it will require us to be smarter than maybe we can be. Over-reliance on protecting old structures will get in the way of needed experimentation. Yet the old often contains unrealized possibilities. Needed change requires the full participation of the old and new, rich and poor, grassroots and abstract thinking, and the promise could be cut short by authoritarian dominance. The great spoiler of our better future would be increasing polarization of what has been often called the have’s and have not’s, but really are the over consumers and the under consumers. The difference, if we are honest, is based on circumstances of birth and access to paths of “advancement” in the current arrangement. We need a new arrangement. The technology issues get at the core of the existential questions: who we are, what we can do with our lives that make sense. Narrow technical/financial choices are to be avoided.
Tech has always been encouraged and chosen by elites to enhance their grip on things and milk wealth from the epoch.
The social contract that ties us all together is broken. Elites needed the rest of us, but maybe no longer.
Nature and the humans need to work together, with their dignity enhanced, in mutual respect and perhaps even love, as in the poets’ visions of man and nature in harmony, as in Lao Tzu, “When Heaven and earth are united down comes sweet dew.”(chapter 32).
Humanity and technology are intrinsically bound together. Early technologies are easy to forget – language, song, fire, pottery, weaving. Much was copied from the observation of other species – how they hunt, dwell, organize, decorate themselves. Our current advanced technologies are easily seen as extensions and elaborations on much earlier technologies. Internet and voice over smoke signals, rocket launchers, and slingshots, cars, and horses: roads are still roads, after many millennia.
The choice of war and power
The use of technology to enhance daily life is often overshadowed by war and power, profit instead of community. Humanity is in a crude balance between the technologies of life and the technologies of war. The result is not going well. New technologies have continually upset the balance and the deciding factor is: who gets to make the choices? Our dependence on oil has invaded a previous society of villages and craft and farms and fundamentally changed its character at just about every point. Moreover, it created a new ensemble of corporations that, through their owners and regulations, have a powerful determining effect on what our future course can be. As that industry and all who make a living from it is threatened we find they are fighting with everything in their power to maintain their economic dominance. As a shell executive said when asked by a reporter about green technologies, “When the new green industries are mature we will buy them.”
The general public view is that such use of tech and money is responsive to threats, but there is another uglier side. War can be used to burn cash that otherwise would have been available for social good - education, health, greening.
Technology and finance
Another threat to technologies that can support GardenWorld is the financial community. Finance was created as the mechanism to make capital in the social system available for projects. In fact, it was created by people who held previous profit as capital and wanted to make more with it. The story of capital funding projects for the population that desired goods is belied by the history that says early finance was mobilized to lend money to Kings for national wars. Yet the system more or less worked. Interesting patterns of public belief and realistic conditions in the world led to cycles and depressions and then new euphorias.
In 2007 financial services were on the order of twenty percent of the entire US business, activity crudely summed into GDP, way too much, making finance not a service to economic activity but a core piece of economic activity itself.
But worse, over forty percent of all profit in the US economy went to finance. Its participation at 20% yielded 40%. As finance led corporations to be downsized, divided, arbitraged, merged – all so fees can be made on the transactions and a percentage of the extracted “savings”, as those responsible for the future of the corporation, innovation labs, and marketing, are reduced and productivity, the amount produced per worker, increases. Carlotta Perez, the Brazilian economist, has eloquently analyzed how such a diversion of profit from the productive ground means that less money is available for investment in new tech. She has suggested rather strongly that the promise of, for example, computerization, moving from broad adoption to ubiquitous computing, has just begun, but cannot be realized without much more capital investment, capital which is not available because it is off bubble making elsewhere in the economy, or invested in private islands and safe enclaves.
Technology is deeply “owned” by money. And the partnership continues with the problems of climate change and global systems collapse. In tech circles, much recent discussion is on the ability to bubble the green. In an example, I know an engineer had a very clever technique for distribution of a green product. He went to the bank with a business plan and asked for ten million. The bank said “too small.” Our hero went home, scratched his head, did some more numbers (they are very plastic actually, despite the reputation for exactness), and came back and asked for a hundred million, and got it. 2.5 million went to legal fees and a couple of percentage points up front for bank fees. The whole deal depends on the continued existence of some fairly obscure federal subsidies. If they disappear, the project fails. But the actors don’t care. The bank, the lawyers, and the borrower all were paid off.
The problem is, this kind of operation continues the process of making the rich richer without much work (having become rich the game is to lend money) and helps continue the bad distribution of wealth in society. In this transaction, technology is seen not as a way to solve social problems, but as a way to make money. The balance (never 100 % either way) shifts between product focus and deal focus.
My understanding is that this kind of use of technology, helping put the society at risk in terms of wealth, is giving it a bad name. People are not happy with much current use of technology. Technology advocates, in fact, seem unaware of the negative consequences most non-technologists have a feel for. The obvious, Hiroshima, Chernobyl, thalidomide, pollution, climate change, and turning to the dominance of finance based on computerization.
This gets crucial as we consider earth crises including climate change. The sustainable future, given the size of the population and dependence on tech, has to be a high tech future, especially using nano-tech and biotech in combination with small local craft production. This is a new world, and it can be an attractive one, but if technology is seen as self-serving of financial interests, the willingness of the public to support
There is no question but what rethinking tech and society is underway. I have long admired the mayor and now ex-mayor of Bogata, Enrique Peñalosa, who exhibits humanity and imagination as he forthrightly questions the role of the automobile (“auto” implies it goes by itself- better to call it the oil-mobile).
Man With a Plan
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Q: As a former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who won wide praise for making the city a model of enlightened planning, you have lately been hired by officials intent on building world-class cities, especially in Asia and the developing world.
A. What is the first thing you tell them? In developing-world cities, the majority of people don’t have cars, so I will say, when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.
I wouldn’t think that sidewalks are a top priority in developing countries. The last priority. Because the priority is to make highways and roads. We are designing cities for cars, cars, cars, cars, cars. Not for people. Cars are a very recent invention. The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars’ mobility than children’s happiness.
[fn: from the NYT ]
The question of the control of technology has been around for a long time. What is often missed is that the problem is not the tech but those who invest to develop it in ways that are self rather than socially serving. Technology is part of a solution to a real problem. Writers like Erik Erikson and Erich Fromm shared a belief that humans have the instinctual energy of animals, but not the instinctive hardwired solutions animals are born with. For humans a rigid pattern of inheritance of the well adapted animals gets replaced with open-ended culture: beliefs, habits and technology, Culture becomes the “second nature” that provides us humans with a way to live, work, and mate. Obviously, technology, from pottery and speech to the Internet and genetics, forms the core of our “second nature” capacity. But the underlying emotional integrity, the integrity of the instinctual, remains intact, despite whatever technologies emerge. Mood and mind-altering drugs can only play on the chromatic spectrum of feelings given by our inheritance. Genetic modification, by playing with our DNA, and all efforts so far are for profit, is the new mouse in the inkwell of the human story.
GardenWorld raises the technology issue to one of policy and choice – what kind of world do we want our efforts to work toward? The more open culture of GardenWorld should support our rethinking the mix, development priorities and ownership of technologies. My hope is that shifting social awareness toward GardenWorld will lead to market corrections and make much of this happen without much interference. Simply removing existing subsidies on old technologies would do a great deal, though it is increasingly realized that these may not be enough to move us toward graceful sustainability. Part of the reason why such changes are not enough is that those “old technologies” and “existing subsidies” are a very complex web of interwoven institutional arrangements that are getting in the way of technical innovation for human good.
Freeman Dyson (see page XX for earlier quote) argues persuasively that three facts will take us toward a new green civilization: solar energy, which is vastly distributed; genomic innovations which can create crops that otherwise could not grow; and the Internet which connect everyone and make knowledge of solar distribution and genomic innovations more widely available, because of access to power and money, less meaningful. Being in the flow of relevant information and sense of participating in the leading edge of the culture(s), have the power to create a better future through the widespread distribution of the knowledge.
This optimistic view has to be seen in the context of the difficulty of governing society. Dyson does not touch on this issue. The tendency is toward centralization of wealth and power through the use of technology. How inevitable is this? Are we locked into a move towards soft fascism, or is open more democratic heterarchy still a real possibility? The way we use technology, and the way we make choices, will be crucial. Dyson’s argument is typical of technological enthusiasts: our solution, widely adopted, will solve the problems. But this leaves out how and by whom it will be adopted (and modified). Technical solutions are different from biological ones in that they stress survival along a few variables, such as more output of electricity. But nature looks at all the contingencies that are present in its living field. As a result biological “evolution” is much slower but more accurate than technical “evolution.” Bringing in a greater sensitivity to the full implication of a new tech, what are often called “secondary consequences”, will be very important in the future, or the population will turn against tech in destructive rage (It had happened before, from the principled Luddites to those who murdered Lavoisier).
Technology plays a central role in GardenWorld, but by using its understandings to enhance, not suppress nature. The conquest of nature, its replacement by machines and sanitized living, is the current official future. GardenWorld moves towards a balance and integration of project, design, and problem-solving, with an appreciation for the flow of the environment, the seasons, and growing. Bio-mimicry, from products to arts, extends the natural and the technical in mutually compatible ways. But this requires deep understanding and involvement with nature and technology. I have met a number of young people, say at Planetworker meetings, who have several degrees in diverse fields, say a first degree in technical and a second in ecological approaches, and they have traveled the world and worked in demanding projects in the poorer regions, inner cities, or rugged environments. They are models of what we all need to learn.
Understanding technology is one key part. The problem is for a generation that grew up with computers, games, cell phones and cars they never thought to try to repair, technology is treated as a background reality, not something man-made and political and financially managed. A project such as that of the Dutch Architectural Firm gets at the immensity of what needs to be considered.
Perhaps MVRDV’s most ambitious theoretical exercise was the traveling computer installation they called MetaCity /Datatown. Predicting that globalism and an exploding planetary population will push certain regions throughout the world into continuous urban fields, or megacities, MVRDV conceived a hypothetical city called Datatown, designed solely from extrapolations of Dutch statistics. (“It is a city that wants to be explored only as information; a city that knows no given topography, no prescribed ideology, no representation, no context. Only huge, pure data.”) According to its creators, Datatown was a self-sufficient city with the population of the United States (250 million) crammed into an area the size of Georgia (60,000 square miles), making it the densest place on earth. MVRDV then subjected this urban Frankenstein to 21 scenarios to see how they would affect the built environment: What if all the residents of Datatown wanted to live in detached houses? What if they preferred urban blocks? What could be done with the waste? (Build 561 ski resorts.) What kind of city park would be needed? (A million Central Parks stacked up over 3,884 floors.) “The seas, the oceans (rising as a result of global warming), the polar icecaps, all represent a reduction in the territory available for the megacity. Does that mean that we must colonize the Sahel, the oceans or even the moon to fulfill our need for air and space, to survive? Or can we find an intelligent way to expand the capacities of what already exists?”
Once we understand the dynamics of mathematics, and its appeal to the compulsive prone mind we all share, we can better understand the problem of why and how societies chose their technologies. Technologies are attractive because they imply a degree of control that is mostly illusory. I hope I was helpful in the Chapter on Human Nature, in exploring this aspect of our being in the world.
Let’s face it; technologies replace the complex with the simple. No human invention is more complex than a frog or even a blade of grass. The machine is designed to be coherent without reference to its full environment, but only to the most limited aspects necessary for its participation in some part of current society. But the frog or blade of grass is clearly part of a whole system of which the foreground and background are intimately interwoven, of seasons predators and prey.
Both technology and corporations are simplification machines, replacing complex process with simple ones in the case of tech, or taking complex outputs and reducing them to simple inputs in the case of corporations (skills and culture and raw materials in – product and profit out.)
Joseph Tainter, in his powerful 1990 book The Collapse of Complex Societies shows that those who have power misuse the technologies available to them, seeking more power and profit, seek ever more complex and expensive solutions to the next challenge facing their civilization. Civilizations collapse because the increasing costs of complexity overtake increases in productivity. The elites are the elites because they own the infrastructure of the state (as in GE, Shell, and the Carlyle Group, ConAgra and Citicorp) and, when things start looking bad, instead of trying to fix the system, they ramp up their exploitation of it, to get the cash to survive, by cutting costs, which further degrades the systems performance and capacity to innovate. Watch how those institutions are able to take the federal budget and bail themselves out, as has been happening with Bear Sterns and others.
Some argue that technologies are neutral, but almost all invention is done up with a market in mind (Or, in earlier times, to attract the support of Kings and ministers, not bakers, bricklayers nor mothers). There is a web of feedback such that as society chooses technologies, society changes, which in turn changes its priorities for new technologies. The result is not a clear causal chain but a true mess of feedbacks and resistances. A few sellers, a few buyers, and a trend can be set. Take tobacco and compare the incredible costs and the extraordinary effort that society had to take to reverse a decision made by a minority of the population as what was ceremonial in the Native American World, became big business, stimulating slavery and shipping and land settlement (The first slaves were brought to the US for tobacco farming) in the British Empire. So too for the car, the phone, and a computer. Stories of their deep penetration in the society is not a story of decisions taken either in a democratic or a more authoritarian way, but based on the small number of decisions made by critically placed people, decisions amplified by the “ah ha’s” of multitudes seeing local opportunities, such as having a car, a cigarette, or a cell phone, and avoiding thinking about systemic costs. The railroad is a good example of how an invention, improved over time, provided the opportunity, and then men with means brought together political and economic arrangements to make the railroads happen. The outcome was social good and social damage. [fn: see the wonderful exploration of the early observers of the railroads in Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden. The choice was made by the economic opportunity which engendered new economic opportunity – realistically available to only a few. i[i]
In traditional societies leaders feel themselves to be part of a culture and community, and the choices they make reflect shared tastes while also enhancing their power. The leaders and the led remain part of a coherent culture of interdependencies. Take for example the Italian hill town or city-state such as Florence. Things cohere. The leaders can see from their windows the people, the essential farmers, and potential soldiers, all those the leaders are counting on to enhance the city.
Industrialization maintained this pattern because it required workers and it required managers to hold together complex systems. Information systems weaken that connection.
Late industrialization broke apart the interdependencies of industrial owners with managers and workers – first to be noticed were the missing workers, then the disappearing managers, but they really lost out together, as we now see in the de-middleclassification of so many who used to feel quite secure. In modern times, given that the economy of capital tends to set the capitalist in the midst of his owning, choices made fit the limited sense of taste and opportunity offered to the rich: Hamptons, Paris, Resort Islands, shopping, cars, boats, clubs and spas. and this world of choice is not inclusive of the rest of the surrounding population. It is remarkable how many trophy houses do not have places to create art or otherwise experiment with aspects of culture.
The result is a continually distorted community. Cell phones on airplanes is a good example of how the balance between economic opportunity, customers and annoyed non-users will play out. Look at the way FedEx made us feel good by allowing us to look up a delivery on the Internet – saved them from having to answer the phone. Much more irritating are the many phone button choices necessary to get to a correct line and then a long wait. In these cases, corporations are passing off the costs of transactions onto the customers. Sometimes increasing but more often decreasing customer well-being
Tolls on highways and higher plane fares play into class lines. With GPS it will be possible (London is doing this) to tax on the basis of use, but since the rich can continually move rules and incomes to their advantage, they can cover their new costs in such a way that at the same time increased costs are born by the middle class downward.
We do not have any democratic mechanism for deciding what technologies will dominate society. People used to define themselves as citizens where voting was the way they made their important choices. Today that identity is fading and replaced by that of the consumer who makes choices with dollars. The technologies that win do so because of the dollar votes of corporations, by their high payoff, and the manipulation of regulations, from bandwidth to building codes.
The imagination of the reader can further integrate how the quantification of society and money, the mechanization of things, and the impoverishment of people all go together. We have created the dominance of the economy with all that is good and distressing about its dominance as nearly the “only game in town” in the modern world – “Machine Dreams”.
Stephen Jay Gould argued that the only reason we have not been visited by intelligent life from other parts of the universe is because no species has been able to develop the technology to get here along with a strong enough social system that prevented collapse through technology. Nuclear war always precedes intergalactic travel.
Dee Hock, who started VISA said: “The purpose of business is to separate the consumer from the conditions of production.” That is, bad working conditions and environmental impacts are part of the cycle but unseen.
A problem is that key trends associated with our current economy, especially the marginalization and impoverishment of too many people and the destructive effects on the environment, probably are not reversible under the current rules. The forces making the rich richer and the rest poorer are systemic and powerful. Powerful because the motives to make it this way are huge payoffs in dollars and power.
I think we see that we need, for our sanity, an alternative path – actually system – for the development and deployment of technologies, a complex path large enough to be a viable alternative to the momentum of the current system. I say “large enough” to make clear that partial solutions are not strong enough to create a new set of rules. Government financing of elections, rather than getting the media exposure that benefits the largest donors to a campaign, might be one of the essentials, lessening the power of money in congressional choices.
It is not going to be sufficient to just add on mechanisms which alter the balance but keep the current forces the same. This is the approach of many of the non-profit socially motivated organizations – they thrive on opposition to institutions they assume will stay in place. We need to prune.
In the county where I live, the green progressives are against the use of “packaged waste disposal systems” because they would allow people to develop on land that otherwise is unbuildable (lack of septic system possibilities). The result is that progressive environmentalists are against a technology that would help the environment. But the county manages to point out that the only people applying for permission to use the new systems are indeed those who have land that otherwise can’t be developed. The leadership of bringing the two together to work a deal – permits only for land that would be conventionally suitable – does not emerge. Hence the shift to a new technology that, system-wide, would be an advance in terms of costs to owners and to a better use of water which could be returned to the proximal land after processing
I think it is still true that most engineering and science students and professionals have some view that technology and science will be of human benefit. They also believe that the fruits of science and the great inventions of mankind should be owned by society and not by individuals or corporations. When pressed, they will have a hard time supporting this belief with arguments. They tend to think that individuals are real and a society is no more than the aggregate of its individuals. So they will tend to support the idea that, yes, if something exists, it must be owned by somebody or some group of people smaller than that of society itself. The very meaning of “us” has shifted. If one is a member of several generations of the well-adapted middle class, ” us” no longer includes a sense of citizenship that spreads further outward into the population of different geographic origins and economic circumstances. Newcomers, either as children born in the nation, or immigrants choosing to come into it, align with the existing society, and adapt to living within a narrow sense of “us”.
Probably neither democracy nor a government of the expert elites can make adequate choices about technology. Democracy does not frame the issues, and elites frame the issues for their own career enhancing interests. Here we are on the leading edge of the need for new thinking about governance. Many, but not enough people, are thinking about the ethics and wisdom of technical interventions. It started with Hippocrates thinking about the ethics of medicine and saying, “First do no harm”. We now have the “Cautionary” ii[ii] principle which is a way of asking for more time to understand the implications of what we’re doing. “Sustainability” is another way of saying let’s keep doing what we’re doing without rocking the boat. The shift from “sustainability” to “sustainable development” is a rhetorical opening for a Trojan horse of keeping things the way they are. Things have to change in order to remain the same.” The values behind the idea of sustainability are guidelines but hard to apply in practice. What is sustainable for a bank is not the same thing that is sustainable for a small scale organic Farmer, or for a salmon fishermen. And “cautionary” just slows down the process which might not be the best when facing dramatic climate change or the discovery of a severe new threat, such as bird flu.
The problem of tech is profound, and vastly limits other aspects of life. It is fair to say that politics is the supreme form of social innovation from early empire days, through the renaissance when authoritarian nation-states came to dominate. But technology has undone this dominance, and it may be that technology, in combination with elites and finance that use it, is the determining fact of our lives now the way politics was in the past.
In fact, politics now is just a tool bought and manipulated by the combination of tech and money. The implications here are powerful and suggest that GardenWorld will come about more by thinking about technologies than by politics. Technology, because of its interconnections, is increasingly important to governance and hence to the combination of state and corporations.
Technology is an extension of the body. Just as it would not make sense to discuss the meaning of a disembodied hand or eye, it does not make sense to talk about the meaning of technology without reference to the person or persons or community of which it is an extension. Hand and eye only take on significance when seen as a part of a person, and persons in a community of symbols and discourse, and community in the environment to which it has adapted itself.
But technology tends to remove us from the body and history. The way we slaughter an animal or make wine were and still are complex processes, but the way we interact with them as consumers removes us from the organic, soul-making (strong feelings that provoke reflection and awe about “nature”), and experience enhancing ‘meaning” of the use. At the same time, we have created “jobs” where labor is paid minimally to do these things, not to feed a family or a community, but working ten hour days cutting up cattle or chickens, which have been treated badly through their life, for unseen millions.
Computer manufacturing is, so far, a very dirty business, and hence is located in parts of Texas, Mexico or Asia, where folks like us will rarely show up.
Many people live difficult lives and their economic difficulties are combined with the complexities of technology. A local clinic sees a mother who has five children; two by a first marriage and three by her current husband. All three parents have different racial national backgrounds. The mother’s mother lives with them all in a two bedroom apartment of a total of 600 square feet. The grandmother is there to help but is tense about the racial differences and takes it out on the children. All three of the adults living in the apartment work part-time jobs in order to survive and the husband has two full-time “part-time” jobs – that is, jobs paid by the hour with zero security in local grocery stores. His main aim is to get enough money for a down payment on a House. Technology for them is simple: car, phone, the television, a shared washing machine, heat, and air conditioning. We need to be aware of how in the web of events and other choices of technologies by the rest of us affect the many people whose lives are like this.
In the county where this family lives population growth is predicted to be 30% by the year 2030. Yet all existing housing is more than filled and to new permits are very few. Land use, population, technology, and the economy set the conditions we have to cope with.
The major political issue in this century may be technology. It goes to the core of war, economy, the environment, and poverty. Nanotechnology, hydrogen cells and biotech for medicines, foods, and growing things like continuous wood panels, will arrive rapidly. The issue is that these technologies will be mechanisms of money transfer to the owners, not social benefit. They are high-cost investments, and owners will seek power and rewards. In order to work these technologies, of course, must attract enough customers, managers, and regulators, but that will always be a subset of society, not the whole. Every change (and not changing) has winners and losers.
As we face climate change we can see how hard it is to make changes because the losers, in that case, traditional lines of business, have a lot, they perceive, to lose.
During the Y2K period, much work was done inside organizations to cope. This made Y2K a “non-event” by actually making it a big deal.iii[iii] What I learned, working as a consultant where Y2K one of the emerging issues, was that with Y2K accountability could be assigned internally to the organizations. With climate change, that is not nearly as possible, so I think dealing with climate change will be much harder. We are beginning to see movement however at the more macro-political and economic levels that are beginning to address the problem. We will see (and participate, willing or not).
An image of GardenWorld as the goal, the design principle, would help clarify what is at stake in climate change, and provide guidance and motive to make climate change innovation more attractive and livable.
Dealing with climate change will require lots of flexibility and innovation and critical thinking. Just recently there has been a discussion of the problem of planting trees as CO2 traps – the reality is that trees absorb heat and heat the atmosphere more than offsetting the effects of the trapped co2 sustains cooling.
Technology and the mechanical often are seen as repressing life. GardenWorld is an approach that highlights the organic as we learn to integrate tech in ways that enhance rather than replace nature. The aim is a better world for all, through the use of human reason in the context of compassion and imagination under the guidelines, the design template, of the human life cycle, remembering that technology is only part of the human condition and only partly constitutive of human nature.
The idea of design could be a big help. Design is about the way things are put together to meet human needs and realities in ways that are attractive and implementable. As we shift from small part systems to truly holistic awareness, design may be the core discipline for putting it all together.
add Leo Marx The Machine in the Garden.
Arthur, W. Brian (2009-07-24). The Nature of Technology (Kindle Location 366). Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition.
This section should cinvince the reader that computation is not an aid to existing society, as originallyb understood, but its transformation. The computer is moving toward obliterating individuality, the organic, the transcendent. It is fascinating but a major threat to humanity.Anything that a computer can do is with known categories. It cannot introduce new ones. It is a totally terrible way to deal with a changing future.Take earth temperature as an example. Before we looked at climate change and had to take it seriously, many data sets about the earth and its uses existed. But changes in temperature outside of seasons not included because not relevant to anything.
The computer cannot put numbers into a new category that emerged, or name that category.
WE, you and I - cannot see an object, say a coffee cup on a table, without attributing the cup the table, the room and beyond to being somehow in the whole universe. The attribution is always there, often not conscious. Try it. No computer can do this. A computer is a large army of well organized zeros and ones.
Imagine a chessboard. The pattern of the 8x8 board is some kind of material, paint, ink, ivory inlay, solidly attached to the board. But the pattern cannot be derived from the properties of he board even though it could not exist without those properties.
Commercial activity and political power.
Big data can find very weak correlations in a large data set, but cannot deal with unique individuals.
The great hope,
All connected simultaneously, the only message that gets through is contemporary. What Trump did to France and what he did on the golf course are equalized , not only that but what Tom Friedman says and what a marginal angry person in the provinces think gain equal access if only for a moment. Google selects stories that balance even if one is far frim reality. A look at google news shows a balance between the Washington post and the much more marginalized Washington times, same with nbc, cnn and fox.
Rise of Management
From tribal chiefs till now, a story of continuity, no substantial change just as from the horse to the car, each with four on the ground, the basic configuration has remained remarkably constant.
The impact of WW2 on management
Separation of management from craft
Anticipated by Hoover. But what of machiavelli, Venice, the di Medicis?
Berle and Means, etc. The biz schools, the GI bill.
The French and Chinese examples of morally driven bureaucracy based on excellence.
(This may be already in other sections.) I need to mention other societies and the richness of emerging literature. First that the Americas had very complex societies long before Europe and even before much of the middle east. The middle eastern societies of the Tigris and Euphrates, Then there is Asia which also is old and was very early complex.
These are important because they are alternative views of how things can be organized.
Adam Smith’s writings are terrific in the details of concern for everyone. But in pamphlets, and then in universities, (mid 1700’s), the interest shifted from broad public appeal to writing for each other - among the London elite or large landowners (think of Downton Abbey built originally on carribean slave profits). These new writers following conventional trends in ideas about knowledge (hence influenced by Newton), worked to model the economy as a system separate from society following universal laws that could not change - a good conservative assumption. Remember that it was easy to imagine the economy as separate because so few people participated in markets and then only for commodities - grain primarily. - and the key basis for power - land ownership - was relatively narrowly held and invisible as a force for organizing wealth. A fact that is still probably true and needing to be a major topic of discussion as land use changes. Society will struggle with finding ways to reclaim the good agricultural land that has been turned into suburbs and vineyards.
Important to be aware that land, until into the 19th century, was not for sale, because clear title did not exist. All land was “encumbered” with side contracts and covenants that limited its use, and its inheritability. Social rank derived from land. That land could be inherited but not sold meant that it remained in the family and prevented those economically successful in trade or craft to buy into the upper class. The alignment of economic thinking with Newtonian perspective (Newton became Master of the British M int) was fateful for economics and thus society as writers on economy strove to be scientific - for career and prestige reasons.
Money and wealth, not quality of life for all, was the focus - then and still). The Monarch often took the side of the peasants against the seizing of the commons mobilized by the nobles (the richer land owners) as the nobles were forming into parliaments against the king. The king had the role of thinking about the whole whereas the nobles saw the king as 71 competition for the land and its production. The actual intellectual life of the society in early industrial England was also very complex, and the interplay between literature and economy was intense. The interaction with printing and the spread of words on paper is important as the basis, but the basis for what?
Important to see that a whole social structure moved into a complex relationship with printing. It is hard for us to imagine how great empires could have been managed without print. Print allowed the writer to be read without having to listen to the response. The balance between spoken and written will evolve with Gardenworld. We moderns need to increase our appreciation of ancient lives. Issues such as the nature of freedom: is it “freedom” for money to do what its owners want, or is it freedom from oppression through confiscation, penury, or preference for spiritual over body or pleasure over renunciation. These discussions moved among leading novelists and writers on economics in a mixture we no longer have, of conversations about ideas and sociability.
How many faculty people do you know who host conversations with friends at home? These are issues GardenWorld will have to deal with. The effort will have to take into account the impact of big data on removing governance even further from people as modeling of the public by experts replaces the interest of people having serious conversations. Early economy back to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, was based on cattle and grain and thus on land and households. I want to stress this and its implications for how we handle the world now. The focus of these early societies is more basic, closer to, food and family, than we are. Yet if you look around at the system we are in, it is formed by the same core issues. Food, sex and place, but until the 19 th century with more differentiated, and colorful social roles than we have.
I suggest that dress and place of living will undergo some fascinating changes in the next few decades. The social history is hinted at by Huezinga’s marvelous Autumn of the Middle Ages and the politics analyzed by Barrington Moore. In his Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. The great cultural historian, an isolated figure with a great mind, Giambattista Vico, is hard to read but worth the effort. The deep political thinking and its shallow variations is analyzed in helpful detail by the many Volumes by Eric Voegelin. I really recommend a few years of dipping into these books. Descartes throwing out the past and wanting to start fresh shows the problem of this approach. If you throw out the past and try to think new, what you come up with is a weak set of principles from the present and nothing else. 72 A different slice through this time is in the work of Sennett 20t. He has worked hard to reintegrate hand eye mind heart in a deeper appreciation of craftsmanship.
Here is a good place to discuss the theories of Arrighi on the progress of economy, taking us to a difficult place because after many steps, no obvious next step has emerged.. This is a slightly simplified picture. Reading the details in his book are helpful. The fascinating story goes like this. In the 13-1400’s craft work created markets in places around Genoa, Florence, Sienna in Italy. The success led to an increase on production and the beginning of a factory system,
At thee same time trade with other parts of the world (remember Columbus) was increasing and profits increased. The local Italian town bankers wanted to find new investments for this money (note the investment idea is creeping in). They built factories in smaller towns to the north but there was not enough purchasing power there, so these investments failed. At this time Holland was increasing its fleet and voyages were paying off, so the Italian bankers “discovered” Amsterdam and invested in ship building.
This worked until the fleet was saturated with new boats and voyages, and the profit fell as competition increased. The Dutch bankers, looking for a place to invest “discovered” industrializing England and invested heavily in London with Dutch Profits. This produced good results and then excess profits and new industrializing slowed down.
The London bankers went looking for new investments and saw the rise of population and output from the North American colonies, started vigorous investment with London profits, and this continued until ww1 when England went broke with military costs (and many people lost their lives to the widespread violence of the war) The investment in the US paid off well, and the American bankers, looking for places to put profits from US industrialization (driven in large part by ww1 and later ww 2) slowly came to china. A good new place to invest.
But note, the next investment must be larger than the previous for this process to self-finance. After China, what? There is no bigger country, only bigger regions, and maybe not even a region is strong enough, just the whole world. Arrighi is suggesting that this is the dynamic at play.
The implications for how to move toward GardenWorld? Obvious at some point the process fails to renew itself. Growth has come more or less to an end and needs to be rethought. Unless - long shot is important for GardenWorld - , production opportunities shift from material stuff - limited - to wealth in ideas and relationships that self reinforce and do not need to return to increasing material production or extraction of wealth from earth or people. Lots to discuss here for GardenWorld.
20 Sennett, Richard see among ohters of his Te Craftsman. 21 See Arrighi, The Long 20th Century and Adam Smith In Beijing 73 Linklater, Andro. Owning the Earth.
Just a few themes from this transition. The internal unliveability of empires hastened their breakup. With an increasing population the chief had to spread authority to a ruling circle, and with time they needed to add bureaucracy, and with that armies which meant generals and estate managers who had a systems view . What is going on here is an expansion of the circle of those with power and understanding. That understanding was precious to those who had it and the beginnings of the emancipation of individuality is under way.
Increased individualism is an outcome of increasing population. The slow march of individuality22 against the powers of the state. This is still the dynamic as climate change breaks up economism and new authoritarian measures loom to resize control in desperate times after the failure of markets to meet the obvious. Gardenworld hopes for a more compassionate and participatory outcome. Mostly ignored by historians of economics, and hence unknown are two books.23
It is an extraordinary history with two main points. First is that Aristotle and Plato, using the word economy from which our current usage is a direct descendent, recognized that a well managed estate produces a surplus. The Greeks, being as conceptually oriented as they were, made a problem with this. What was the purpose of the surplus? These Greeks concluded that the proper use of the surplus was to create leisure for the study of politics and philosophy. This is important because it shows the use of the surplus was different from our own more consumer oriented. Both men said that spending surplus on extra things was a waste. The second point is more complex. The language of surplus was absorbed into the early Christian community and the community was treated as the estate of God which required proper management, especially in the monasteries. The idea of the proper use of surplus was transformed into creating the time for meditation towards God. By the third century it was recognized that God was infinite and the human population was increasing and so it was necessary to grow the surplus in the reach of more people toward an infinite god and the theory of growth emerged (st. Jerome).
Historians have ignored the use of the word economy.. With the breakdown of Christianity the idea of growth and the economy of the community remained but the Christian framework of the goal of knowledge of God, equivalent to the Greek search for philosophy, was lost. So we ended up with an economy that was conceived of as a system (the estate) with an ethical drive towards growth but lacking any purpose. The Renaissance idea of the individual moves into that space.(increased riches and wealth. Adam Smith was very supportive of frivolous spending by the rich to drive craft incomes) From human’s obvious survival on the land, its plants and animals, to the present is seen as a series of steps, but it really is quite simple (though with lots of details). We still live off of the animals and plants harvested, gathered, from the land.
There is a story - that hunter gatherers ran out of food and took up agriculture which formed empires which led to wars and slavery which led to feudalism, which population increase and cannons against stone walls, broke apart into city states . Fleeing people established free towns with crafts and increasing trade. An alternate view is that the path, instead of a series of clear steps taken by most of humanity at the same time or following the same pattern, is more like an Escher - stairways intersecting at odd angles. At any moment in history the path to the present is still obscure and debatable (because the process if not over it is still ongoing through any present moment), and the path for wars looks like the Escher drawing - multiple paths with multiple destinations and multiple dead ends. This suggests that instead of a fixed past and a fixed future, all is up for creativity and choice. The butterfly effect is always at play - that is, a tiny shift affects the choice we make now which has huge impacts on which future will be followed, and the path taken is really the sum of many paths across many options. Only in retrospect does it seem there was a clear path leading to our present. 80 Given this, the way to the hierarchical society we have was to take family structure as the model chosen for organizing people, treating non-genetically linked folk as if they are members of a hierarchical family rather than as members of a conversational community that wanted to avoid hierarchy. Why the family pattern was chosen over the community by the West is a question best explored by looking at those societies that did not make such a choice. In the anthropology/archeology literature there are some examples, such as the Chinese village (“The people are in the forests and the emperor is far away”), and many now emerging in the research literature.
Scott’s Against the Grain and Graeber’s Eurozine article 26point the way.
Breeding and nurturing has been and should be central to economy and economics. Economy is fundamentally organic, while economics, which is academic thinking about the economy, has tended toward the mechanical, with physics as the aspirational paradigm more than biology or the humanities . The misplaced aspiration , to be included in science while really supporting wealth gathering, is killing us. Science implies universal law which implies all people must follow it all the time. No freedom, no humanity. Just cogs in the machine.
What makes the cornfield smile; beneath what star Maecenas, it is meet to turn the sod Or marry elm with vine; how tend the steer; What pains for cattle-keeping, or what proof Of patient trial serves for thrifty bees;- Such are my themes. - Virgil Georgics
The transition from the classical period to the Christian and beyond, to the breakdown of feudalism, was a huge struggle and worth studying to understand better what we might be in for our own time. My guess is that a better society that might emerge will have many aspects like the old societies we have abandoned. In short, a return to community and personality and a turn away from consumerism and abstraction.
Passing through Christianity 26 https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/ 81 There is a wonderfully perspective-shifting book by Dotan Leshem. Neoliberalism from Jesus to Foucault
Economics moved from the Greeks through christianity to the modern era, and the the Christian period had a major influence, certainly unknown to me, on what economics has become. This is much more important than we are normally because the influences are still operating, and might increase, as we try to implement GardenWorld.The interplay of language, religious feeling, religious institutions and the organization of the psyche of the community hints at what is at stake in a community, and thus what might unfold as our current society comes apart.
For the Greeks estate management was essential to create, first the necessities of life, and beyond that a surplus, a surplus which could support the citizens’ participation in the public sphere, the polis, , and to create time for the reading thinking and talking that was the philosophical background on who we are and how to live. In this way estate management, the greek used the word economia, (literally estate management) was understood as both meeting necessities and creating the surplus to allow some people the leisure for politics and philosophy.
This is clearly an intent toward the use of surplus that is very different from ours, consumer oriented status seeking. That we have two possibilities for surplus breaks us out of the trap of thinking there is only one, and frees us to ask and debate : what can we now (with more experience, better technologies, longer lives) do with our surplus (if we still have any. Socrates said that the way to more surplus, and more leisure for philosophy, was less consumption.) That perspective was absorbed into early Christianity and became the well managed world, a world given by god to humanity (Jesus being part of that gift, an instruction on how to live, makes the story more complex so you need to go read it.) The management of the world and the monastery were two sides of the early church leaders' use of economia. Remember they were Greek speakers. Moreover the purpose was to grow that capacity in order to reach an infinite god and carry out god’s infinite plan.
In our time, we have dropped the church and the beliefs and are not growing for god’s project, but for our own. But the Athenians and the Christians had a rudder to their project, a direction, and hence an intent. We seem to lack that. Can GardenWorld become that intent? 82 There is a whole literature and many university departments in this discussion. Hannah Arendt for example proposed five periods to economic life: Classical, imperial, christian, liberal and neoliberal. And now what? God created a world where humans were free. The Greek world was more a world of constancy and mechanical structures.Understanding this Christian interlude is crucial because of the fingerprinted it leaves on current institutions.
For example, the idea that the economy is God's project for humanity and that the project had a coherent structure across the terms, God the father, the Holy Spirit and the son Jesus became the idea that the economy as a trinity was a coherent structure. Implicit was the idea that it was a monarchy and not a plurality. The three modern concepts of capital, labor, and land hold together as a single system. The Chinese it seems never had such a coherent system in mind and saw what we call economy as an ensemble of systems that could interact but we're not necessarily coherent.
There is probably great strength in the Chinese and other Asian approach. certainly the idea of elite capital as the guide Is reinforced by the Western Christian tradition and habits of thought with a single god and a single king. If Gardenworld is to open up, it's thinking it needs to consider these issues of the implicit bias of Western thinking towards narrow ownership and narrow leadership. for the Christian perspective in the middle ages the economy was a very integrating structure that lead from purpose to practice. The experimentation in garden world should probably be a continual interaction between The goal, the purpose, and experimentation, practice and reflection which means conversation among all the participants. What works? How are we doing?
Another important perspective on the contribution of the Middle Ages and the issues they struggled with is from the literary side. An excellent book is Ernst Curtius’s European literature and the latin middle ages. This will reinforce the idea that each old culture is in fact livable and complex. Christianity was certainly an all encompassing culture for Europe but it was fated. important for us now to learn the feelings of collapse. from Augustine and the Problem of Power:
The Augustinian Prognostic Charles Cochrane https://voegelinview.com/augustine-and-the-problem-of-power-the-augustinianprognostic/ 83 Surplus
The use of surplus, both in Greece (eco-nomos and in christianity, gods household) well-managed will lead to a surplus whose end was in Greece time for philosophy and politics, or later, in the monasteries, contemplation and god seeking.
This means we can talk about the purpose of an economy. Also the management that in fact led to surplus was wise management of the land and its critters. It is an alternative to a brutal focus on growth at any cost. Growth is of value to those who see their asset value increase without having to do anything, and to the brokers who make deals for people who are looking for ways of taking advantage of growth. There is some benefit to “consumers” but at the cost of needing full time work to buy what is created in much less than the full work week.
What is meant by growth is often a decrease in what remains. Cutting forests, extracting minerals, forcing people to work 60 or 40 hours per week for meager results. The political struggle has always been , who get the benefits of the surplus, if there really is any. The wealthy and powerful, where wealth more or less equals power (The children of the wealthy are often the most vigorous in using that power but many of the children of the wealthy show lack of initiative and lack of understanding what their wealth is.
We certainly want to manage our land and climates - and people - well, and that should produce a surplus. Though with climate and ecological damage so extreme, it might be a major task just to survive, and then what to do with it? If we can feed and home ourselves - estate management - that might be the goal until some kind of stability has been achieved. This is not going to be easy. If we get to survivability with some serious success, then do we choose less work, or use more work to create a larger surplus? These are questions of the nature of humans, what good society is, and how to “manage” wealth and politics. It will be important to keep the discussion of the purpose of surplus because the wealthy and powerful, the new leaders, will try to hide the fact of surplus and hide the uses they make if it. Surplus, as the Greeks and monasteries made obvious, is the opportunity to create larger minded people, but also to become property, the “proper sign of rank” in a rank society. Capitalism is the ownership of the money by a few who use the state to increase their capital while extracting wealth from others and the environment. Capital begins with production, and the surplus of breeding - one new head (cap) of cattle. This is already present in classical Greece.
Capitalism is a way of making decisions in society by creating a hierarchy somewhat independent of the state. But it is a blunt instrument, 84 capable of deciding what makes more capital, not what makes better lives, since things that capital can create and then bought, while important, do not add up to a life, and keep the economy working for the few.Thinking through what a society does with surplus is going to be a major discussion - or should be - if we are to redirect Gardenworld toward a fuller life rather than repairing the money generating machine that right now is killing us. The modern I have discussed this in chapter 2 , “where are we”.
But a bit more about the modern is going to be helpful. God is dead. Erich Fromm asked if man was dead. That is, in sensitivity to who we are is on decline. The cultural is thinning, rubbed away by time and too few work at renewal. Keynes once wrote, ”It takes 99% of all human effort to keep things from getting worse. “ But we have not been putting in that effort. The result: decline. We will have to live through the modern world to get to a healthier Gardenworld. You can see another major line of historical development. Human started organizing themselves (inherited from earlier primates) into groups around the twin activities of food and sex - reproduction and sustainability. But we couldn't do that without some limited cultures of the kinds we can see among primates.
But we humans went on to a more elaborate culture. Since the human brain is more attached to itself than earlier species are to the world, elaborated structures of habit and desire - culture - became increasingly the place where we live, increasingly more in culture than in our bodies. The danger is, as we can now see, living in our culture away from nature has led us to make serious mistakes about the survivability in this elaborated world of the more natural brain-nature world that was our more immediate world in the deep past, a world we have designed ourselves out of. Much of “modern” is really about this.
I can’t do justice to he depth of the modern but I can point to aspects for you to follow up on. As we moved away from the god world we entered more into what had been 85 called, secular, which comes from ideas around a single human life, not the life of a community or species - basically the collapse of broad philosophical time and space to a much more confined here and now. The time and space of computer games is here and now. Players do not expect that their actions will create changes in the space broader than what is in the screen generated world. The despairing parents are struggling with how hard it is to get young people to have expectations much broader than the game world. Charting human lives for vitality in Gardenworld will not be easy.
Biblio for how did we get here
Charles c. Scott.Aainst the Grain
Otto Rank Art and Artist
Against the Grain
Sahlins Stone Age Economy
Charles C. Mann 1491, 1493 Prophet