Monday 2 March 2009

When Man Finally Grows Up

The last post dealt with a basic look at when systems become obsolete, the concept that economic and political systems evolve in phasal shifts to meet new challenges, to carry us through, if you like.

Each change happens because existing arrangements are inadequate to overcome hurdles that are necessary for society to overcome to progress further.

It's actually pretty Darwinian. Only of course, we aren't blind watchmakers.

The challenges that the west faced at the onset of the eighteenth century were to put in place a system of production and distribution, to apply science of superstition and to develop this planet as far as was possible.

It is of course, all about biology, really. It actually boils down to the fact that populations expand exponentially unless curtailed.

And humanity have learned that the ways that populations get curtailed, aren't much good. We don't want war, famine, disease and poverty.
And yet- this then leads us to another problem.

The Capitalist era dealt with the problem. It allowed for the conquest of death, in many ways. Not death by old age, but at least now most of us will get there. However, it showed us just how quickly we can fill up space by learning to live successfully.

And now it has been so successful that it throws up the simplest challenge of all; what you going to about the population?

That really, is the challenge of any system. Being able to sustain continual population growth. It's a hard fact to face, because we bury our heads in the sand that our world's problems aren't much of them down to population, but they are.

And the main failing of our system, is the negative response it throws up. That, when we know there are onlt two solutions to a growing population in limited territory, the answer that springs to mind is the one it does.

We plump for- stopping the population growing.

Aside from the fact that it doesn't work, it also leads nowhere. It temporarily stops it, but it can't solve it forever. It's burying your head in the sand. Even you adopt mass genocide as the solution, fact is, we'll still breed again. And get back to where we are.

But also, it isn't progressive, in the sense that it is surely logical that the accelerating pace of human advance is partly due to increased population. More Einsteins are surely born today than were in the year dot, because sixty times as many people are being born. The more of us there are and the longer we live, the more we can achieve. So birth control is a short sighted answer. It is OK if practised on a small scale for individual reasons, as a means of enabling people to have sex without getting pregnant. But purposely restricting population growth is ludicrous.

What we need to be able to do, is the other solution. Rather than restrict the population, find more homes for humanity. A sign of a system that is taking us forward, is that it can do that.
And that rwally, is the challenge capitalism fails at.

It fails as a system because it isn't the Political and Economic model can achieve global disarmament, efficient resource allocation and- colonisation of other planets in our solar system.

But, as argued in yesterday's post, the next phase, the Democratic Communistic phase, will achieve that. It will be up to that challenge.

My guess is the twenty second century will be in many ways a time of hope and optimism like the nineteenth century was. I have envisaged before a sort of United states of earth, with nine states, the moon forming the tenth with Mars and Venus being colonised and settled, the new frontiers of mankind.

And this will, I have argued, cause changes in how we see ourselves as a species. We will, after all, have vastly changed the way we live and it will no longer be in any sense natural. After all, not only will anyone who doesn't live on Earth be living in a world made habitable artificially, but Earth's habitability itself will probably be maintained artificially. The trust we have in technology will be far greater. Without satellites, we'd all die- including us Earthlings.

And a number of technological shifts will have changed our lives beyond recognition. The internet will be something none of us evr quite switched off. It will be there on our wrist, we will have the ability to conjure up the hologram of any other human being we want to, as long as they don't object to us conjuring their hologram up.

We really will all, all of us, be compulsive, continual, communicators. We won't talk of Real Life and the internet as being separate, because they won't be.

But another major technological advance I think is likely to happen at some point over the next two centuries is going to be in reproduction. We will be able to reduce the amount of time a child needs to spend in the womb before we can continue it's development in incubators. It is possible that by 2200, the only thing that needs to happen in the womb is fertilisation; once the embryo has become a foetus, it can be removed to an artificial placenta.

This bit I'm sure makes many shiver. It has Brave New World overtones. Except when we look at the dynamics of why it is likely to be favoured. In a sense, of course, natural selection will still be the determining factor. But essentially, mothers will be able to take the decision to have children far more lightly than today. Especially in a society where the children are going to be cared for by communal childcare provision anyway. I don't think we'll dispense completely with the family dynamic, I would guess society would still ensure that each child has a legal guardian, but we may decidea grandparent is more suited than a parent. And biological parents become more like a brother or a sister. After all, the bond of maternity is likely to be weaker.

So family bonds will not exist as they do today. Nuclear family will be as obsoloete as the extended family clan systems that once existed. Each individual will essentially have a fairly direct relationship with society. Perhaps the communal hotels I envisage will wholly replace the family dynamic and reproduce them. I actually once considered what might be an appropriate form of address to use in a world freed of class status and other terms, because I've never liked Mr and Mrs. And Father and Mother would be obsolete in a world such as I envisage. Many of us now already call our parents by first names and I believe the children of the future will too. But what term would you use to address someone as a courtesy? Comrade sounds sinister now, because of Russia. I wonder if perhaps, 'Cousin' would be the term we'd use for all adults, the adults in our own community, anyway. And children would address all adults not related to them but part of their own community as 'Aunt' or 'Uncle'. So the blood family would be gone, but the communes people lived in would assume much of their dynamic on an extended scale.

I suppose I wonder if a child would grow up rounded in a hotel complex, with a guardian who was a blood relative watching them, but otherwise brought up by trained nurses with other children. I don't see why not. After all our children now spend much of their day being brought up exactly that way. And we go to schools of a couple of hundred pupils young and don't feel threatened. If the hotel complexes were of about five hundred people, as I suggest, then age birth year would have about ten children in it. I believe children would grow up knowing everyone in their community and hopefully feeling safe within it.

These last few paragraphs might seem a slightly pointless tangent. But I wanted to highlight the difference in how someone who had reached adulthood in the late twenty second century would view childhood, his place in the community and the world beyond his community. Because many I'm sure would move to other communities in adult life. But the community of one's childhood would be both family and hometown.

Where I think the major evolution in thinking will be, is in tiers of government. The tiers to begin with, will be much as they are now, only altered in function Individual, then the hotel complex s/is part of, then local government (county or district) then the provincial or regional infrastructure (the equivalents of lander, regions or provinces in Europe, or states in America) then the infrastructure of the state (Europe, Africa, or the Americas), then the federal government of Earth.

And I think the tendency will grow to see these strata as being different in function, as having definite roles in the social contract. I think individuals will start to defend the rights of their communities against encroachment quite rigidly. I suspect local government, as in providing of local amenities will start to be seen as something that the member communes should have the power to decide themselves, that as long as they are being seen to fulfill their obligations, each area should be able to decide for itself how it decides these things. Legislative decisions at this level will be taken by direct democracy and specialist executives elected for specific functions. But increasingly I imagine, the right to assemble these executives and how to assemble these executives will be decided bottom upwards. Local government will be seen as belonging to the communities.

The two infrastructural tiers will then primarily be seen as delivery systems. At this level, legislative and executive decisions will probably still have to be taken by representative bodies. But the functions of these tiers is literally to produce, distribute and provide services. Provide power, grow, package and distribute food, produce goods, provide hospitals, secondary and tertiary education, train people to carry out a role in the infrastructure, provide law and order, the infrastructural tiers are the tiers which organise people's labours and ensure the workings of the machinery. These tiers organise humanity's systems basically.

And over and above it all, federal government. Overseeing life on Earth. Literally. Responsible for ensuring that the things go in to the infrastructure that need to go in. Ensuring that the machinery is run properly. Overseeing the environment. And ensuring enough energy is produced. And ultimately, directing what is to be done in the future.

And I think it is going to be just when human society starts to pat itself on the back that the foresighted start to see future problems emerge.
Myself, I think- as I suggested in my Life on Mars series- that the realisation will set in when first Mars and then Venus become 'all growed up'. When we Earthlings give them independence and recognise them as planetary governments equal to our own. Of course, they won't yet be, because Earth will still be for a long time the most populous of the planets. But it will no longer be the ONLY planet. Not even the only one that can fully look after itself.

And yes, I guess we humans will start to feel quite proud of what we've achieved. But then we'll also start to see the future obstacles.

Because we'll know we've still got plenty of room. The Gas Giants aren't habitable themselves, but their satellites are. By this time, we won't see terraforming them as a challenge. Several them are similar sizes to our Moon. We will know we have plenty of space left to expand into within our solar system.

What we will be realising is that one day we won't. That if we've got a point where Earth and Mars now see eachother as both being equally human worlds then a point is going to be reached when human beings run out of space again. In other words, we'll see that at some point the whole thing could collapse as the planets of the solar system compete for resources to feed their growing populations.

In one way, introducing birth control wouldn't be so problematic at this point. I suspect the link between sex and reproduction will be far slimmer. People will generally have children because they want to. And up till now, it won't have been burdensome, as discussed above.
But I think our descendants- hopefully- will have got used to seeing birth control as a negative stop gap solution. And be used to always seeing finding more territory as the best answer, the only one that can ever lead to further progress for human existence as a whole. That our descendants will see it as a challenge to be overcome and not as a reason to say 'Let's stop progressing'.

And I've suggested before, there really is only one solution they can adopt. Colonise other stars.
But we don't have to face the fact, though they probably will, that everything we know of physics suggests that whilst we will one day work out how to travel faster than light, the likely solution is going to involve attainable levels of energy that a species confined to one star system can never attain. In other words, we will be able to do it, when and if we become a species spread across several stars. Hmmm. Chicken and Egg problem.

I have in my Life on Mars series used a story telling scenario to outline how the problem would be tackled. What I didn't do was really go into how much of a phasal shift would be entailed in this; the societal changes involved would be far greater than the mild systematic changes involved in moving from Monarchical Absolutism to Liberal Capitalism, or from Liberal Capitalism to Democratic Communism.

So in a sense, what I'm kind of foreseeing is that the real revolution, in essence, will take place in the mid twenty third century. Kind of, yes.

What's going to change, you ask? Not Democratic Communism, something else?

No, because the Democratic Communal model of living will be working. The actual structure of living won't be the thing that needs altering. This revolution, will be revolution in our USE of labour and resources. Not how we ourselves live. In how we reproduce life, yes. Because whereas as before reproduction will have been simply about individuals reproducing themselves within the framework of society, this revolution will take place to meet the new challenge of finding ways to reproduce our entire culture and send it off in little capsules to fertilise our neighbouring stars.

It won't be our way of life now that we find wanting, or rather, the way of life we have then. Nor will it be the top levels of government, I don't think. But what we will be doing, is adding a whole new burden to our infrastructure. And it will be found wanting. To achieve what needs to be done will involve a new revolution in how we do things, and, like all revolutions, it will happen because it has to, because challenges have to be met and they have to be met in a way that doesn't involve a decrease in quality of life.
We are essentially going to be suddenly asking our infrastructure, the purpose of which was simply to keep our way of life going, to now add to that the task of turning minor asteroids into human colonies capable of sheltering life for a couple of centuries and we are going to be asking it to produce a good fifty of these a year at least. And not only that. We're going to realise that there really is a lot more we need to do. But we'll realise that is going to be doable- if we make radical changes to how we do things. Changes that would seem far fetched today, but won't do then.

I often talk of the revolution as being about humanity growing up. Of course, it won't really mean we have. But this revolution, the revolution of the twenty third century will be about growing up. It will be a deferred gratification revolution. Because it won't involve a change in day to day life for people. It will involve instead a radical change in direction for human efforts, in the burden of the responsibility of the species. It will be humanity knowingly entering a chrysalis stage, of consciously planning to set up, over the course of centuries, an inter-stellar human infrastructure. It will be going into this stage knowing that eventually it will yield a massive change in existence for the descendants of those who stay behind. But for two or three centuries, humanity needs to find a way to successfully send spores of human culture to fertilise the galaxy with human life.

And it won't know how that is going to turn out. Humanity will be sending out spores, the development of which, it has no control over. This twenty third revolution will be looking forward to the day when it is in communication with enough of the descendant cultures of these spores, who have successfully replicated the technology of Sol enough for enough human colonised stars to attempt to set up the technological marvels which will make things such as faster than light travel possible. And when that happens, the people of Sol will be the odd ones out. All the other human cultures will be shiny new colonist cultures, TRUE Brave New Worlds. Who have, during their centuries of separation, torn up so many of the rules and started afresh. Reconnecting with them will be like Marco Polo going to China.

So that is why it will be such a grown up revolution, humanity agreeing to undertake this project. Dedicating our surplus efforts to send off human beings to set up cultures elsewhere where they may tear up all our taboos. Because we'll be considering that if they do, they may be right and that when we meet again, it could just be that they have things to teach us, stuck in dull, stuffy, traditional old Sol. The point of this twenty third century revolution is that we'll be sending off human beings to give us a revolution when we meet them again. To give us an idea of the better ways they found of doing things when they started from scratch coming to a star system anew.

So that is what we'll be looking to do. What we'll need to do to achieve it, well. That's actually again, a great leap into the unknown. Potentially, quite a scary revolution. And one I'd like to speculate on.

But that's another story.


Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Well I don't think I would want to have grown up without parents. As a child it was important to be to be able to go home and shut the door to have my family round me, the support it offered.

Even now my home is still my castle.

My parents do have names ^_^ but I never use them.

I figure we do need a frontier though. That is missing. We need some place on a map that says "Here be dragons".

So is this your main blog now Crushed? I can't figure out where to comment.

Anonymous said...

Crushed...I am troubled by this. Parents must remain intact as primary providers. Society can help rear a child, but never replace a parent. People are born with specific personalities. While it is true that our behaviors are often influenced by our surroundings, we are who we are - when we are born. One child is calm and inquisitive....another loud and destructive. Same environment, same teachings, totally different children result. This cannot be controlled. In a communal society who will care for the difficult child? Adults would naturally shy away from difficult children and tend to favor the obedient ones and shun a child for not conforming to its peaceful ways. This leaves the biological parent to handle the difficult one. It is unpleasant to deal with a rebellious, nonconforming individual. And there will always be someone rebelling. A person could have every single need/want/desire fulfilled and still be wanting. Still they are unhappy with their lot in life. Still jealous, and envious. Still angry. This will breed resentment of those that fail to conform to communal standards. These forgotten, disliked or rebuffed children will band together in their shared rejection by society. They will grow up and form armies. Anarchy will rise up. It is inevitable. No matter what planet we inhabit, war will come. It is wonderful to strive for holistic peace. It is unattainable. Good news though...the Mayan people predicted we're all dying in 2012 anyways.
Kisses baby :)

Crushed said...

Moggs- I did say the family bond would never totally disappear...

I'm simply looking at how trends are going now and what would happen if we finally abolished wedlock completely (in law, anyway. It would still exist, I'm sure, as a ceremony), lived communally and had full time childcare provision.

A typical child in the UK today may or may not live with both biological parents. A majority probably still do, but far less than once did. Most often, either way, the grandparents are involved to a far greater degree than once they were.

Reasons? Well, because both parents work. Grandparents often have more time and today are still fit and healthy, which a hundred years ago they might not be. Grandparents are increasingly taking on much of the functions once associated with parenting.

Future generations might well decide to have their children young (Between 20 and 25 is the best time, medically), and a granparent made legal guardian, blood parents having a role more like a grown up brother or sister.

But the commune as a whole would provide nursing staff to look after all children equally, so the role of a guardian would kind of be more as a role model, someone to take the child out and give them treats, etc.

It's that frontier that's in my mind right now. The post above may not seem related, but it is, kind of.

I'nm kind of weaving between origins of life and where it's going.

This is kind of because I'm starting to focus on what (one of) the actual point(s) of this blog is, which is to kind of thrash together material which one day I hope to publish.

They're both main, I think. People can comment on either. We'll see how that pans out. :)

Sweet Cheeks- You would, of course, still have such problems.

We can't expect Utopia to actually BE perfect. Just an improvement.

And- and this is one unfortunate reality- some things thrown up would seem unsatisfactory compared to what preceded them.

Bringing children up communally would eliminate many problems, it would probably eliminate much abuse of children, it would create adults better able to exist in communities but also less likely to become dependent on specific individuals.

I do believe that for MOST children, it would yield basically happier results. That's not to say that there aren't obviously children for whom it would be a step back. And of course the system would need checks to counter that. If it was a decent system, it would have special procedures for dealing with children who needed extra care.

With any advance, something good about the old system is lost. For example, monarchy. Generally speaking, it's a good job we aren't run by absolute monarchs any more. Butthere are examples, as one realises studying history, where monarchy had an edge.

And that is, that even if someone is a complete idiot, if they've been learning how to run a country since they were five years old, they know a hell of a lot more about it than someone who just won an election last week.

Which is why monarchy lasted so long. You weren't run by the best necessarily, but you were run by people who had been trained to do it.
Obviously, you lose that when you elect your leaders. But you can make up for that by educating everybody as well as once you only educated the king.

The road to perfection is a long road of trial and error :)

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Crushed, Marriage is a contract as much as anything else. You,,, and the state... and everyone else has no business telling me what contracts I enter in to. If you think I am making a bad deal fee free to point out why, but that's as far as you get to go with it.

If you deliberately weaken it, or make it illegal, then you can also weaken the position of women.