The Upside Of Down
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