Forever Under Construction

The Upside Of Down

Posted in Books, Civilization, Internet, Society by homeyra on November 20, 2006

Today I came across The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon, and two interviews with the writer at Tyee Books: Embrace The Collapse and The Internet Idea Army

This book [... paints a grim picture of our not-too-distant future… But Thomas Homer-Dixon says there’s hope. Not that global warming isn’t upon us, or that terrorists won’t explode a nuclear device in the near future, or that the growing gap between rich and poor won’t result in deeply destructive conflict, or that our social, political and economic systems aren’t deeply vulnerable to collapse.…Homer-Dixon …wants us to learn from ecology… Systems grow, mature, become rigid, and break down. If we accept that this is true for human systems, we will be better able to create less rigid, less dangerously interdependent systems … we will learn to plan for renewal when things do break down…[he] places a great deal of faith in individuals, in their ability to collaborate, create consensus … He’s fascinated by Wikipedia’s ability to create an enormous, resilient document of human accomplishment through a collaborative, voluntaristic process where ego and experts aren’t given much sway. And he wants to apply that model to key global challenges…”People have enormous analytical power available to them. Much more information … as citizens, we are more competent and powerful. Power has moved down the social hierarchy from institutions to individuals. But along with power comes commensurate responsibility. People aren’t taking on the responsibilities that come with our increasing role in governance — self-governance…we usually don’t bother. We are disastrously incapable of taking a very long view, personally or institutionally. Politics and business are in many ways biased against our long-term future.

We won’t solve our problems one by one by shouting about them. We’ll solve them by reducing existing stresses, creating more resilient systems, and planning to ensure that good things emerge from bad events.

“… I honestly think there are deeper causes of our malaise — the architecture that institutionalizes competition and conflict between political actors. What you get in question period is people shouting at each other. It becomes institutionally required for an opposition party to oppose. Its identity is as an oppositional party, instead of trying to constructively solve the problems we have…maybe we need to develop some parallel democratic institutions that are grounded in a more voluntaristic and collaborative approach to problem solving…” Let’s all get together and save the world:

“We need a place where people can go that is less egocentric, where people can focus on solving the problem rather than accumulating power. I think that you could create, as we’ve found with Wikipedia, institutional architectures that encourage that kind of thing. You can kind of socialize people into that…what happens with Wikipedia …is that people as they participate in the process adopt the norms, they become socialized into the culture and the assumptions of the place. There is an ethic and an etiquette to doing this.”… and more


13 Responses

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  1. naj said, on November 20, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    thanks Homeyra, I will link to your post right away 🙂 Well not that I have many readers 😉

  2. homeyra said, on November 20, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    Hello Naj:) I saw that you were getting some “free publicity”! Readers will be running soon!

  3. newmw said, on November 20, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    This is an interesting theory yea, which is also gaining ground in academical fields. Mostly called the critical theory (in short: look for negativity and see what positive comes from that). Just blogged about it, because it was talked about at the MyCreativity convention in A’dam on Creative Industries. Gotta give that book a try I guess.

  4. naj said, on November 20, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    🙂 “free publicity”

    google search: Anti-semetism =>

    naj is a persian blogger with an attitude!


    Let’s see what’s the bill to come 🙂
    I posted the Meet the Press links, in case you are interested.

    oops, forgot to be polite! Salaam!

  5. homeyra said, on November 20, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    Hi Newmw, something “sounds” right in the Idea, I just read that they are some 55 million blogs… Something good can come out of all these availabilities, if organized in some sort.
    Naj:) your link was 7 or more pages to read!

  6. newmw said, on November 20, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    55 million! Lol! We’re doomed! But something good has to come out of it right? 🙂

  7. naj said, on November 21, 2006 at 3:01 am

    I know dear 😉
    the podcast should be available for download soon as well.

  8. Bluebear2 said, on November 21, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    There is hope that throught the bloggers we can spread a new vision of the world. A vision of compasion without political borders.

  9. Agent 99 said, on November 21, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Golly! Sounds like a book worth reading! So many people tearing their hair out about this mess we’re in, all of it, and I keep saying I want a cave… precisely so there might be someone left to help shape a better world, if there’s anyone left to shape it with. It really seems the most constructive approach right now. And I’m pretty stoked about the title.

    The ancients had the answers. Zen. Sufism. Taoism. The future may be deeply rooted in the past… if we learn, if we make sure to leave any way to do better.

  10. homeyra said, on November 22, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    BB and 99, seems we all hope that the notion of “wisdom” becomes trendy for a change:)

  11. tod said, on November 22, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    anybody read Riane Eisler? she has a really good analysis of how the present architecture got formed — a dominance submission structure, where someone has to dominate and someone has to submit in every situation, our default position for the society. she points out the partnership structure, based on values that have been marginalized by the present structure as “women’s values” are what’s needed now. and she’s right.

  12. homeyra said, on November 23, 2006 at 6:33 am

    Hi Tod, I haven’t read Eisler, will look it up. This post, The Passion Of The Western Mind, in Reclaiming Space seems to go in the same direction. Have a look.
    Btw, I love this Cocteau quote on your blog: “Mirrors should reflect a little before throwing back images.” 🙂

  13. Monte said, on January 25, 2007 at 5:46 am

    Great tips! Thanks for your kind words, and for pointing up these books. I’m looking forward to checking them out!

    : You’re welcome Monte. Thought you might like it.

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