A New Global Civilization

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes
the existing model obsolete. ― Buckminster Fuller

The "render obsolete" strategy puts the right burden on those seeking change.

The new system must be better than the old system, in all the ways that the old system is good.

The judgment that it is better will be made by those that will one-by-one freely choose to switch to and participate in the new system. (The pocket calculator rendered the slide-rule obsolete in just this way. The electric refrigerator rendered the icebox obsolete in just this way.)

The "render obsolete" strategy does not involve coercion, conquest, or any other form of threat or violence.

The strategy does not involve ideological appeals or persuasions, or appeals to historical processes or religious prophecies.

The strategy does not involve protesting in the streets or spending billions on zero-sum political campaigns and lobbying.

The strategy does not involve making leaps of faith with fingers crossed, or burning things to the ground with no tested idea of what will come after.

The first step of the strategy is to use the science and engineering methods to create an actually better system, with rigorous study, experimentation, and testing to verify and demonstrate that the new system is indeed better than the old system, in all the ways that the old system is good.

An Experimental Approach to Civilization Design

It is now newly feasible (with our new technologies) to study and compare candidate global civilization designs by modeling them on virtual worlds. (That is the claim, ready to be tested.)

This approach applies the science and engineering methods to the experimental laboratory study of such competing designs, as the first step toward implementing a single selected design in the real world.

This approach applies "First, do no harm" to civilization design work, at every step.

Modeling Civilization Designs on Virtual Worlds

A global civilization has:

The essential work of the social system as it operates (manufacturing, farming, health care, etc.) can be conceptualized (for modeling purposes) as being performed by sets and sequences of projects. (An eight-hour workshift is a project. An investigation is a project. Submitting a proposal is a project.) Analysis of work into projects and sub-projects can be as fine-grained as it needs to be.

Each project has requirements (tools, ingredients, training, etc.), is performed, and may produce work-products and "side-effects".

The performance, work-products, and side-effects of completed projects can be appraised. (The work of appraising is another project.)

Projects are triggered, sometimes directly by decisions, sometimes by policies (set by decisions) that wait for events.

Decision-making in the models comes from modeling the decision-making and decision outcomes of actual humans.

The "Visible Hands" Laboratory Project

In order to "succeed", a virtual world civilization design must demonstrate itself to be viable, sustainable, and attractive.

The attractiveness of the civilization will in large part hinge on its arrangements that affect answers to this question: Is it a civilization in which I would wish to live?

— Teams Forking

The first experimental virtual world will have a collection of teams working on it.

At the point that the first irreconcilable disagreement regarding societal arrangements arises (perhaps whether to enable private ownership of property or not), the original collection of teams will split into two collections, and one of the collections will start up a second virtual world.

The two virtual worlds will thereafter proceed separately (with much sharing of code and data for features that are common to the separate worlds).

Through this forking process, it will always be the case that the collection working on any particular virtual world will be internally in agreement regarding what societal arrangements to experimentally try out.

There will not be much need during this phase for bridging or compromise within any collection, or among collections. There will be collaboration without competition within each collection, and collaboration without direct or verbal competition among collections.

Through these collaborative processes, we want all of the various societal arrangements that may be of interest to anyone to be experimentally tried out.

Moreover, when like-minded people gather, they tend to become more vehement and extreme in their jointly held beliefs. We want that too, during the "forking phase" of the lab work. The science and engineering processes need to be free to venture "outside the box", as far as interest and findings may lead.

— Teams Joining

A virtual world civilization model has reached maturity in the Lab at the point that it has convincingly demonstrated itself to be viable and sustainable on its virtual world.

Each model is intended to be capable of serving as a "Visible Hand". (A Visible Hand is an alternative to the "Invisible Hand" that has been keeping capitalism from running into ditches and such over the last 400 years or so.)

Just as with the Invisible Hand, each Visible Hand must be capable of effectively and efficiently driving an actual civilization on the real world. (Arranging to provide to every civilization member everything needed to live a comfortable and secure life, within the budget that the planetary resource base provides, is just the sort of game that our new technologies can potentially help us play very well.)

As multiple models reach maturity, the teams of those worlds will turn to the task of somehow joining their models to arrive at a single design that all can accept as a new potential home.

Teams that succeed in joining their models will have a new model that will potentially be attractive to more people, and will thereby potentially have more resources available for the future task of starting up the corresponding real world civilization.

Ultimately, the winner of the "Global Civilization Design Contest" will be determined by the quality and quantity of resources that the competing contenders can marshal as they attempt to start up their preferred design on the real world.

Thus, with viability and sustainability given (all mature contenders have those), attractiveness will be the determining factor.

What Constitutes "Better"?

Different people may have vastly differing views regarding what constitutes a "better" global civilization.

"Conan! What is best in life?"
"To crush your enemies -- See them driven before you,
and to hear the lamentation of their women!"

It is perhaps safe to say that Conan has no interest in a world in which all belong equally, except in the "All belong to me!" sense.

— Forking Then Joining

During the "teams forking" phase of the Lab project, we want the Conans of humanity (along with all others interested, of whatever persuasion) to try to create viable and sustainable and attractive versions of civilizations that they would view as better.

During the "teams joining" phase, a perhaps irreconcilable (we'll see) separation may develop between collections of teams that value having Power Over Other People, and collections that value having fully egalitarian relations among all people.

(There may also prove to be other sorts of irreconcilable separations — we'll see.)

— Attraction and Coercion

If that irreconcilable separation into camps occurs (hierarchical versus egalitarian), then the contest may become one of attracting those who are "between camps" (for example, those willing to tolerate the existence of oppression if the civilization design delivers better conditions for their personal lives and loved ones, and the trains run on time) into one camp or another.

If the Conan teams wind up with "all bosses and no workers", they will perhaps not have enough resources to compete successfully with the egalitarian camp in starting up their corresponding civilization in the real world.

Or, if the most ambitious and highest functioning people are attracted to the Conan civilization, perhaps they will find ways to coerce the meek into serving them in the real world.

Certainly that has happened in the Invisible Hand global civilization that we now have. The meek are serving those holding Power Over Other People in both nations and corporations, without feasible choice to do otherwise. (Arguably we are living in a budding Conan Carnegie global civilization, with power highly and increasingly concentrated.)

— All Belong Equally

One extreme opposite to the Conan (or Carnegie) civilization would be a civilization in which no one (individual or group) had any enduring Power Over Other People, or any enduring personal/private control of affects-the-public goods or services. (None more equal than others.)

In the Lab, it will be possible to explore whether one or more viable, sustainable, and attractive versions of such a civilization can be created.

Positive Feedback Loops

Positive feedback loops are among the primary mechanisms that can terminate civilizations, or morph them into entirely different sorts of civilizations (e.g. democracy to dictatorship).

Even a single uncontained positive feedback loop — like a single cancer cell — may be enough to produce such outcomes.

For a civilization design to be sustainable, all positive feedback loops that may potentially affect it must be eliminated or reliably contained.

— Concentrated Power

Perhaps the most common and most dangerous sorts of feedback loops are those produced by the existence of concentrations of power.

Stated generally, the problem is this: It does not matter through what means power is initially concentrated (through political, criminal, police, military, economic, financial, religious, or whatever other means) — the end result will potentially be the same, because power is fungible: any form of concentrated power can be used to acquire more power of any kind.

The existence of concentrated power potentially brings into being positive feedback loops that may produce further concentration of power.

Then, as the power concentrations increase, the civilization design may commence to morph in whatever directions those wielding the power may prefer.

— Checks and Balances

The Founding Fathers of the USA understood and appreciated this danger: their design concentrated power in the federal central government, and they understood that, unchecked, that power might grow.

To forestall that possibility, they arranged "checks and balances" among competing power centers within the central government, and vis-à-vis the state central governments and the voting public.

As a design solution, their checks and balances system had two major problems: the alignment problem, and the collateral damage problem.

Regarding the first problem, they warned that, if there were ever a partisan alignment across all of the power centers that were supposed to be serving as checks and balances for one another, that alignment would have the potential to jeopardize the design.

The other problem they did not necessarily see as a serious problem. It is that as the giant Godzillas are dancing and fighting, keeping one another in check and the overall system balanced, the little people get trampled and ignored. (The Founding Fathers were all power-holders, so this was not their problem.)

— Don't Concentrate Power

In moving from kings to elected presidents, and from heriditary House of Lords to elected senators, the Founding Fathers took big steps along the civilization design dimension of diffusion of power.

A next big step that is now newly possible along that dimension is from presidents and senators to no presidents and no senators (no elections, no representatives).

What is required in order to be able to take that step is a new kind of decision system which allows and enables any member of the civilization's general public to freely choose to participate (on equal footing) in the process that makes any public matter decision.

All members cannot participate in all decisions — there are too many decisions. But any member can participate in any decision.

This is arguably the best that the concept of democracy can offer, so far as (1) providing the maximum amount of personal agency with respect to public matters that can be provided equally to all members, and (2) moving the civilization design toward the diffusion end of the "diffusion of power" dimension.

Using a decision system that diffuses the power to decide across the entire general population can (together with various other arrangements) yield a civilization design that has no power centers.

Having no power centers can more reliably forestall and contain feedback loops that might increasingly concentrate power than can any system of checks and balances among power centers, and can do so without trampling and ignoring little people in the process.

Conflicts of Interest

The three primary conflicts of interest that operate against the public good in our existing societies are the profit motive, the imperative to obey the Rules for Rulers, and the considerations that attend personal/private ownership of affects-the-public property.

Any civilization design that manages to neutralize those three influences on public matter decision-making will be more able to keep that decision-making pointed at the public good.

A civilization design can eliminate ownership as a conflict of interest by not enabling ownership. The profit motive can be eliminated by not having free markets, and not having ownership. The influence of the Rules for Rulers can be eliminated by not putting public matter decision-making power into personal/private hands.

All three of those conflict of interest sources can be eliminated through civilization design choices. Then the questions would be whether the resulting design was viable and sustainable, and how many would want to live in the civilization.

Dimensions of Personal Freedom

Different individuals may have profoundly differing views regarding personal freedom.

In the Lab, there may be any number of virtual world models, each expressing a different view.

The sections below will introduce a few of the dimensions along which views may differ, and discuss points on those dimensions that might be adopted.

— The "Free Rider" Problem

If, as part of setting up a civilization model, a team elects to formulate a formal social contract, and in that contract specifies that each member of the society will have full sovereign autonomy with respect to all personal matter decisions, the contract must then specify which matters are personal.

One view that might be adopted is that personal matters are those that "primarily" affect these:

This view can then be interpreted to entail that each member has a liberty right to not contribute to society. The Free Rider problem could not then be solved by direct coercion of members, compelling them to work. (In our existing society, enforcement of truancy laws is a clear example of compulsion through police action that would violate this liberty right.)

Those in our society who are said to be "independently wealthy" have also in effect the equivalent of a claim right to not contribute to society. Their personal resources are sufficient to grant them that choice: they don't need to work.

A civilization designer team could choose (in the social contract) to formally extend that claim right to all members, in the interest of more fully supporting personal freedom to choose how to spend personal time, focus, and effort, and how to treat, develop and utilize the physical body.

For a civilization model that elects to prioritize personal freedom in this way, the first and main question is empirical: can that be done? Will enough members freely choose to do all the essential work that needs to be done, just because society needs it and for whatever positive incentives may be offered? Can the Free Rider Problem be solved without compulsion?

— Fairness And Free Riding

Another objection that can be raised against free riding (in addition to the empirical objection that a society that does not compel members to work might not be viable or sustainable) is that it is not fair that some should benefit without contributing.

This objection directly pits a particular notion of fairness against a particular dimension of personal freedom.

Some virtual world teams may prioritize this notion of fairness above the corresponding personal freedom, in which case the societal arrangements of those civilization models will limit personal freedom accordingly, in the interests of fairness.

Other teams may accept free riding as a valid, available, and supported choice. To formally prioritize personal freedom over fairness in this way might be expected to produce a very different sort of civilization than we have, in part because it would avoid incurring the emotional, spiritual, belongingness costs that attend compelling people to work.

— Safety Nets Or Solid Floor?

Each civilization designer team will be faced with the choice whether to establish a solid floor of support (which will effectively remove financial precarity as a compulsive force in the society), or try to solve the Free Rider Problem by leaving financial precarity in place, with safety nets to catch only those who for one reason or another cannot be forced to work.

In the Lab, teams will be able to explore and compare the costs and benefits of various versions of these two alternatives.

— Paternalism And Personal Freedom

As here defined, paternalism manifests as arrangements or actions that limit a person's or group's liberty or autonomy and is intended to promote their own good.

It directly opposes personal freedom (defined as having full sovereign autonomy specifically with respect to all matters that "primarily" affect one's own time, focus, effort, and physical body).

This is another dimension along which there may be major differences among virtual world models. Some models may prioritize paternalism, others may prioritize personal freedom even when it leads to foreseeable and bad outcomes.

Compulsory schooling (whether compelled by police action or by the prospect of future financial precarity) is one of the clearest examples of "paternalism prioritized" in our current societies.

— Communities And Personal Freedom

A choice that each civilization designer team will face is whether to allow and enable communities to coerce their members. Some civilization designers may choose yes; others may choose no.

For those who choose no coercion, enforcing and supporting (with a claim right) these two civilization-level rules might be used to effect that:

— Ownership And Personal Freedom

In the Lab, the civilization designer team can choose what can be personally/privately owned, and what will remain publicly owned on the virtual world, or will remain not owned at all.

The reach of the personal freedom to own is most definitely a dimension along which views will differ.

There may be virtual worlds on which the view will be that public ownership should be reduced to a size small enough to drown in a bathtub.

And then there may be other worlds that feature no personal/private ownership at all, beyond full sovereign ownership of personal time, focus, effort, and physical body.

Core Variables of Civilization Design

— Nations Or Not?

The land of our real world is currently divided into nations, with each nation internally having further subdivisions into provinces, counties, townships and such.

In the Lab, there will be a virtual world that attempts to precisely model our real world. It likewise will have its land divided into the nations that we have now.

In addition, there may be any number of other virtual worlds that model other variations on the theme of "world divided into nations".

And, there may be still other virtual worlds upon which are modeled civilization designs that have no nations, and no nested jurisdictions.

— Central Government(s) Or Not?

Our new technologies potentially enable governance without central governments.

At least one candidate civilization design already exists that harnesses this potential.

(The "Isonomea" civilization design that has this feature (among many others) will be discussed in side-links as we go along.)

Whether to have central government(s) or to have "distributed governance" is another core civilization design choice.

— How To Make Public-Matter Decisions

In our current global mish-mash of civilization bits and pieces, there are myriad arrangements and systems through which public matter decisions are made.

(In this context, public matter decisions are decisions that affect the public, which includes decisions that affect nature and/or future generations.)

If the civilization designer enables private ownership of property (including private ownership of enterprises), that will concentrate the power to make all sorts of public matter decisions in private/personal hands.

If the civilization designer enables vote-driven election of representatives (legislators, judges, presidents, etc.) that will concentrate the power to make various public matter decisions in the personal hands of those representatives, or in the hands of the legislatures, boards, committees on which they serve.

If the civilization designer enables direct voting on proposals, that will enable the global public to directly make a few thousand (at most — ten decisions per day would yield 3,650 decisions per year) of the hundreds of millions of public matter decisions that must be made each year.

(And those few thousand matters will entirely occupy the available attention of the global public, so that all of the millions of public matter decisions beyond those few thousand will be made "in the shadows".)

An alternative option now newly available to civilization designers is to design new kinds of decision systems that more effectively and efficiently harness the vast potentials of our new technologies, in service of world peace, personal freedom, and egalitarian democracy.

One example: Blinap. The Blinap decision system is used in the Isonomea civilization design to make all public matter decisions, globally.

— Corporations Or ?

In our existing world, corporations are chartered into existence by central governments. They are entities of the State.

In the Lab, the civilization designer will be free to choose whether or not to enable chartering corporations into existence.

In the Isonomea design (as one example of newly existing possibilities), there are no corporations. Instead, work is organized through a single, global Pools of Teams system.

What Next?

You the reader (if you have followed all the side-links) have now finished what there is so far to read.

In the spirit of Blinap, everything here is immediately and meaningfully "actionable", in two ways: You are welcome and invited to propose changes to what has been written, and you are welcome and invited to propose entirely new material to add to what is here.

So far as the structure of the site, I have tried to keep the material on this main page "neutral" — not taking sides with respect to the various civilization design possibilities. And, in the side-link pages I clearly do take sides. I propose that we keep to that pattern.