[Mike] Hey, guys. Welcome to episode number 36 of the Future Thinkers Podcast. Today our guest is Daniel Schmachtenberger. Daniel is an evolutionary philosopher, strategist and social engineer. His work focuses on complex systems, the evolution of humanity and global resource allocation. His goal is to find the shortest path to a fundamentally redesigned world system that supports in an ongoing way the highest quality of life for everybody on the planet.
He specifically focuses on developing economic and governmental systems that, by design, incentivize life enhancing behavior.
[Euvie] [00:00:30] Daniel’s recent project is Neurohacker Collective, which is a smart drug brand with a vision of holistic human optimization. In this episode, Daniel talks about many deep and fascinating ideas to do with building a better future for all of humanity. He specifically talks about the different systems we will need to transition into this new world and to mitigate existential risks. This is a really great episode. I think it’s one of our favorites. If you want all the show notes, books and mentions from this episode, go to futurethinkers.org/36.
[00:01:00] Before we get into it, as always, I want to thank our recent patrons and donors, Dianna, Pascal, Rich and Nigel. Thank you guys for making the show happen. You’re awesome. All right. Here’s the show.
[Mike] Welcome to Futurethinkers.org, a podcast about the evolution of technology, society and consciousness. I’m Mike Gilliland.
[Euvie] I’m Euvie Evanova. This episode is brought to you by Æternity, the Oracle machine. Æternity is a new block chain platform for smart contracts with a token crowd sale launching in [00:01:30] March 2017. Go to futurethinkers.org/æternity and subscribe to their mailing list to get notified when it goes live.
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Daniel, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re going to have a lot of things to talk about today, but why don’t we start by talking about an optimistic future of humanity and what we need to do to transition into that future. There are a lot of visions and theories out there about the ultimate macrosystem that we need to adopt, not only to survive the century, but to thrive. [00:02:30] What is your vision of that?
[Daniel] First I wouldn’t talk in terms of an ultimate system. Talk in terms of ongoing evolution and so rather than kind of a utopian, as one has previously thought of a perfected system, we’re going to think of a protopian process. A process of emergence into more elegantly ordered complexity that has more and more emergent properties and more of the things we’re interested in and gets over some of the underlying causes of things that we want to get past.
I would say that rather than [00:03:00] just iterative evolution, we are on the brink of a phase shift and phase shift defined by core axioms and core foundations of most of our macroglobal systems from our world view to our economics to our governance to our infrastructure, going through foundational shifts. This looks like a step function in evolution, where we have had capitalism that has gone through kind of iterative developmental processes. We’ve had [00:03:30] representative democracy that’s gone through iterative developmental processes and scientific methodology and world view and etc. Now we are on the brink of something that requires larger, more fundamental axiomatic and structural shift.
We can talk about what the criteria for the other side of that have to look like for it to be a non-self terminating system and for it to be an anti fragile system. Those are two [00:04:00] of the important criteria of any kind of world that is interesting for anyone, right? It is definitely non self-terminating and then not anti fragile. Then there’s more things we’ll talk about on top of that. Do you want to talk about what those criteria must be?
[Mike] Well sure, but first, let’s define the problem. What’s wrong with our current system and why do we need to transition out of it?
[Daniel] When we say “our current system”, we are sweeping a lot of things together. It’s worth kind of pulling those apart a bit. We might be talking [00:04:30] about macroeconomics, which obviously the macroeconomics of China and the macroeconomics of Russia, the macroeconomics of the United States [inaudible [00:04:37] are different systems. There are kind of beyond national global economic systems that we can look at. We can look at governance systems, again national and then transnational governance and then beyond anything that’s codified, how human decision making works. We can think of governance in the highest sense of how [00:05:00] do we do collective decision making at various scales, from a business to a family to a nation to groups of nations to a species as a whole, navigating things that face the whole species.
Economics, we can think about how do we do resource allocation and how do we do human incentive systems. With infrastructure, we can talk about how do we meet our physical needs in relationship with the physical planet. Education, medicine, so we have a lot of different systems that coevolved and they are interconnected and inter-influencing. [00:05:30] Then you can think of a kind of evolving paradigm that involves all of those things, but we’re going to need to talk about at least the core ones in distinction from each other.
What is the problem we’re trying to fix? Well, one thing is those current systems, the interface of those current systems with each other and the net effects are unsustainable. Unsustainable means self-terminating, means that these systems [00:06:00] run to their own end and then fall off some kind of cliff. When we look at growth curves of different kinds of organisms, any time we see a growth curve that has an exponential up, that is not forever. Sometimes the exponential up goes logistic and that’s very nice. Sometimes it drops off pretty hard before it logistics. Sometimes it goes through a lot of instability. Sometimes it just exponentials up and then drops off a cliff.
[00:06:30] We were under half a billion population for all of human history as far as we know, 200 plus thousand years until the Industrial Revolution. Then in just over 200 years, we went up to over seven billion people and growing. That is a profound exponential population curve. Not only have we went through this profound exponential population curve in relationship to our ability to extract resources from the planet [00:07:00] that are not replenishing themselves, which is what the Industrial Revolution was. Mining, farming, fishing, logging, etc. The ability to take some kind of resource reserves that took hundreds of millions or billions of years to develop and to be able to extract them at a radically fast pace. Obviously much faster than they can renew and then the population’s growing on that savings account until you hit the end of the savings account and then there’s real problems.
Not only [00:07:30] have we been growing in population, but we’ve been growing in resource consumption per capita. This is a multiplicative issue that we are getting near the end of the viability of that particular part of. When we think about running an economy that requires year over year growth, requires it because you’re fractionalizing the monetary supply even deeper than that just interest, where the monetary supply has to fundamentally expand. Then to not debase [00:08:00] the currency, you have to increase the total amount of goods and services. Services sit on top of product economies, which relate to a linear materials economy, product materials economy, which the linear materials economy means extracting resources from the planet un-renewably, which means devastation of ecosystems and things like that. Then turning them into trash in ways that usually consume a good bit of energy from the resources, create a lot of pollution and externalize harm to people and environments along the way [00:08:30] and then in with waste.
That kind of exponential growth economy and attached to a linear materials economy just doesn’t work on-goingly on a finite planet. It only would work on-goingly on an infinite playing field, which we’re not on. That is a fundamentally self-terminating system. It makes plenty of sense that when there was just so much low hanging fruit, in terms of coal and oil and fish and trees and et cetera, we would do this exponential [00:09:00] boom kind of thing. It’s just that’s not viable anymore. It also happens to be that the technologies that would allow us to be really viable in a post growth economic system, it’s not about net more consumption, but about using the same things in a closed loop materials economy in ever more interesting ways, so a materials economy that is closed loop, post growth and upcycling, continuously upcycling. The technology it takes to do that is technology we are just now [00:09:30] getting. Happens to be that that’s at the same time that we are just now getting to the point of self-termination of the old system. We both have to shift and can, at the same time.
The technologies it takes to build this kind of sustainable regenerative, thriving, new set of world systems is technology that we developed via capitalism and linear materials economy and the military-industrial complex and all those things. [00:10:00] They served an evolutionary relevance, in terms of where we’re going and they have just completed a particular evolutionary relevant life cycle. Now we’re going through a discrete phase shift into a new life cycle, very much like a fetal time period. An embryonic time period is unsustainable. The caterpillar can’t just keep devastating its ecosystem without pollinating forever, but that’s not how it works. A baby couldn’t stay in the belly after 40 weeks and act parasitically, but that’s not how it works.
It is going [00:10:30] through a period where its system is fundamentally not capable of the kinds of autonomy that it will later be capable of, so it’s a finite evolutionary period of unsustainable development to then go through a discrete phase shift to then be in a fundamentally new period. I think it’s a very fair analogy to look at humanity as having been in a kind of embryonic period. Bucky Fuller used to like to speak to it like that, like a chicken embryo, having finished eating the egg [00:11:00] white un-renewable resources, emerge from a world it didn’t know it was in, emerge from a shell into a world where, that it now has a beak to eat that it didn’t have before when it was eating the egg whites, come from plants that its poop fertilizes and it’s part of this larger kind of regenerative process that evolved.
When we talk about what the problem is our materials economy is unsustainable. Our macroeconomic structures themselves, our ideas of ownership and valuation [00:11:30] and et cetera are all fundamentally unsustainable. They’re coming up on their cliffs of unsustainability. Our exponentially increasing tech curves are creating more and more existential threats, et cetera. This is all what we would call self-terminating. Even before we get into existential and catastrophic risks, it’s also already causing suffering at just such massive scales, whether we’re talking about war and drone strikes on civilians [00:12:00] or whether we’re talking about factory farms that are these just rolling apocalypses or whether we’re talking about fishing the oceans down to nearly nothing. We can forecast future catastrophic scenarios, but we’re in them. We’re in these rolling catastrophes, moving towards complete inviability.
The future systems we’re in have to prevent total existential risk and total catastrophic risk. They have to solve the foundational causes [00:12:30] of the current, unnecessary, human induced suffering and then create world systems that make possible and probable and induce higher quality of life across all the very meaningful quality of life metrics for all life and optimize evolutionary rate.
[Mike] It seems like most people are saying capitalism is what’s gotten us here and you’re just taking a couple extra steps to see where it results. A plus B equals C. When we proposed basic income in the past, [00:13:00] that’s usually their answer. “Well, capitalism has got us this far. Why would it not take us further?”
[Daniel] You think about that embryo, that baby growing in the mother’s belly. If you didn’t know that it was a baby that was going to birth at a certain point, it would be easy to mistake it as a very serious parasite.
[Daniel] It is taking a lot of nutritional load from her body. It is modifying her physiology profoundly. If you imagine a mom in the eighth to ninth month, if you didn’t [00:13:30] know that there was a discrete phase shift about to happen, you’d be pretty sure she was very near dying in a pretty terrible way. The difference between a parasite and a baby is that the baby goes through that for a finite period and then phase shifts into a different phase. Interestingly, when we look at parasitology, virology, bacteriology, there are many parasites that, when they initially start feeding on an animal, human, whatever and they haven’t before, they kill them fairly quickly. [00:14:00] The ones that were aggressive enough to kill the hosts quickly don’t propagate because they killed their hosts. They don’t live very long. They don’t get to travel onto many other hosts.
The milder versions that don’t actually kill their hosts get to both live longer and propagate more and so there are a number of pathogens that get less toxic over an evolutionary time frame because they have to be. We don’t get the chance of killing lots of planets to figure out … We could do it that way and only the planets where the people were less problematic in this way [00:14:30] end up making it through, but we want to do a more conscious version than that.
Rather than the slow evolution of a parasite can be less pathologic, we need to do the actually going through a birth into a new phase model and we can. What’s so fascinating is that if we define a civilization where we have a sustainable population that does not require imposition from the outside, some kind of eugenics program or Chinese birth [00:15:00] limiting program or whatever, it is an emergent, self organizing phenomena. We’ve already seen plenty of places in the world where when education gets high enough, economics and female empowerment and et cetera, that population stabilizes, can even decrease to find the right levels of where it’s at. We’ve seen that in Japan. We’ve seen it in some of the Scandinavian countries.
To have a steady state population that is within the sustainable carrying capacity of the planet, connected to a [00:15:30] post growth materials economy, where the materials that we are using are being designed in a cradle to cradle way, where their recycleability after this particular use is built right in. There’s no such thing as waste. There’s just moving the old stuff back into new stuff. The new stuff is being made from old stuff, so it doesn’t require virgin resource acquisition. The only new thing coming into the system and it doesn’t mean we won’t ever take a new thing into the system as far as atoms go. We could. If we find an astroid [00:16:00] with some interesting platinum, we could do that, but we have a system that doesn’t require trash or extraction. That’s what post growth means is post necessity for growth, so that it actually can be sustainable, viable and then we just keep increasing the efficiency of how we utilize those resources and attenuating the forms that they’re in.
The only resource that we keep bringing into the system continuously is energy because that’s what we keep having ongoing access to. We have new photons coming in all the time. We don’t have new atoms coming in all the time. [00:16:30] These new photons coming in all the time allows us to keep recycling the atoms, where we’re upcycling them rather than downcycling them because this is not a closed system. We get to externalize entropy out of the system, bring enough energy to keep driving more syntropy in the system.
When we ask what are the necessary and sufficient criteria of a sustainable, non self-terminating, thriving, anti fragile world that does obsolete the catastrophic and existential risks, the current cause of suffering, [00:17:00] create higher qualities of life, we could actually do this construction in detail sometime, but I’ll just kind of state the things.
As far as infrastructure goes, our physical relationship with the physical world, it does require these three criteria, closed loop, post growth and upcycling, negative entropy, but it’s not actually negative entropy in a thermodynamic sense because we’re bringing energy into the system.
As far as social systems go, economics, governance, law, language, [00:17:30] the social agreement fields by which we navigate collective agreement, collective decision making, collective resource allocation, all the things beyond just individual action. We can think of governance as how we make decisions that involve co-decision making, collaborative decision making. Most all of the decisions we’re going to make are going to involve allocating resources of some kind, some way. We think of economics as how we allocate resources. The other major thing that economics has [00:18:00] done is human incentive. When there’s a bunch of shitty jobs that nobody, if they didn’t have to, would want to spend all of their life doing, maybe I’ll pave a road now a little bit now and again, but I don’t want to spend 40 hours a week, my entire life until retirement doing that, as long as we have shitty jobs, especially in the labor economy that the society needs done for the quality of life that is related to infrastructure, then we need to get the people to do the jobs. Adam Smith talked about this. Marx did. Everybody did. This is the core of economic [00:18:30] theory.
If you do some kind of communism where everyone’s needs are met by the system, then how do you get the people to do the shitty jobs? Well then, the state has to force them and we call that imperialism and it’s why we don’t like communism. Or everyone has to do an equal amount, but that’s still who is going to enforce us, [inaudible [00:18:48]. Capitalism says, “No, no. We’ll let the free market enforce them”, which is if they don’t do the shitty jobs they just go homeless. That’s really not freedom still. It just moved the forcing function [00:19:00] from the state to the market.
Well, as we’re moving into technological automation, this foundational axiom of all economic theories, which is how do we deal with the labor economy, this is an axiomatic topic, is being obsoleted. We’re obsoleting that all of the conversations that Marx and Smith and friends had. That both solves problems and it brings new ones. When we have technological [00:19:30] automation that is capable of automating the shitty jobs and it’s important to get when I say that, that doesn’t mean that the machines are going to take your jobs and you can’t garden if you want to. Of course, you can fucking garden or wash your toilet if you want to. You just don’t have to wash your toilet all the time because we can make bathrooms that clean themselves better. Then if you just want to do that, you’re welcome to. Human freedom can absolutely do that. If you want to garden, you’re welcome to do that, but can we create vertical agriculture systems that automate many aspects of that, while [00:20:00] providing high quality nutritious food with lower impact on the environment? Yes, we can.
That opens up more human freedom, not does the other. As long as we have a situation where the jobs need the people, then we have to make it where the people also need the jobs, i.e., capitalism, which is why that system has succeeded in a Darwinian sense in the way that it has. It’s important to get that Darwinian selection does not select for the true, the good and the beautiful. It selects for [00:20:30] what is adaptive, which means what is dominant within scarcity dynamics.
Now, even if that’s going to be going extinct in the very near future because it’s not forecasting, it’s not adequately forecasting, as soon as you can make it to where the jobs don’t need the people, the automation, you can also make it where the people don’t need the jobs, which is what the common wealth economics is moving towards. A first step in the direction is basic income.
Basic income is not enough, but it is a step. [00:21:00] The key for it not to be a welfare system and we think about the problems of the welfare system and how you have people who don’t have the Darwinian motive to create the capitalism gave them, so they just sit on the couch and smoke crack all day. Those are people that have already been broken. This is a very important point. When you look at little children, they’re asking questions all day long. Why is fire hot? Why is the sky blue? Where do we go after we die? They’re fascinated asking deep, philosophic and physics [00:21:30] and et cetera questions and they want to help do stuff and they want to build stuff. Then we don’t answer those questions because why the fuck is fire hot?
That’s actually a very deep physics question. Then it’s moving from physics to consciousness studies, like the mind brain interface of subjective experience of hotness with photons on the skin and nerve pathways, so we say, “I don’t know. Spell cat.” We don’t facilitate their interests while forcing them to be interested in completely uninteresting shit and there by breaking [00:22:00] their interest in life. Then they just want to veg the fuck out. Now we have broken humans, where if they can just veg out, they will, but this is not human nature. This is broken humans in a system that systematically breaks humans.
It’s very important to get that in this kind of economic system that we’re proposing, there’s a fundamentally different education system that’s possible because we don’t have to prepare kids for the workforce. Since we don’t have to prepare them for the workforce, the whole [00:22:30] goal of education becomes identifying the unique aptitude and interest and fascination and inclination of each child and facilitating the shit out of it. Realizing that they don’t have to actually be able to do everything because we’ve automated a lot of things and then we’ve shared a lot of things. What they can uniquely do and what they can light up the most in uniquely doing and then have the benefit of that be fully available to everyone in a common wealth economics, it makes radically [00:23:00] more abundance possible for everyone than is actually possible for anyone in this system. I’ll come back to explaining how that’s possible. Then that’s the goal of education, facilitating the emergence of radical uniqueness.
[Mike] What I think about what is required in this post birth society, I’m going to call it, I think people are optimizers. It’s more like picking the root or direction that they want to go to and then make that part of the system more efficient over time. I myself do that with every aspect of [00:23:30] our lives with our website. I’m an efficiency optimizer. No doubt people, when they find what their calling is, what they want to be doing, they’re going to spend a lot of time doing exactly that in the grander scale.
The way you say the incentives are all out of wack, yeah, it demotivates them to learn, which in turn demotivates them to optimize anything, which is exactly what this new system needs.
[Daniel] Since you identify as an optimizer, then you think of it through the lens of that they’ll all be optimizing. That’s a good lens. Someone else would say that [00:24:00] they will al be creating.
[Euvie] Yeah, that’s me.
[Daniel] While they map to each other, they’re both different experiences, phenomenologically. They actually are different parts of the creative life cycle and et cetera, different modes. You also have some people who identify things that they’re particularly passionate about where all of the topics they’re passionate about kind of braid together into a very clear through line. There will be other people for whom that’s much less clear that are more focused on [00:24:30] interpersonal connection and depth of subjective experience and the creative process itself, independent of any particular result that’s being produced. One of the beautiful things is that’s not possible in a macroeconomic system where you say, “How do you turn that into the dollars you need to live?”
In a macroeconomic system where that’s not the question, there is an important difference between appreciable wealth and exchangeable wealth. When we think about a rainbow, [00:25:00] it’s not extractable and exchangeable wealth for anyone, seeing a rainbow. When you think about hearing a song, when you think about somebody complimenting you, seeing a smile, none of these are things you can put on a balance sheet in any metricable way. When you think about what makes life most rich, it’s largely these things that fit into appreciable, but non quantifiable wealth.
One of the beautiful things that happens when the primary balance sheet that we were paying attention to [00:25:30] is the balance sheet of the commons, the natural world commons and the built world commons that everyone has access to without possessing is that we have a system that gets to start optimizing for appreciable wealth generation because we’re not only focused on exchangeable wealth accounting systems.
[Euvie] I think we’re already seeing that a little bit with the internet where people are producing, they’re producing music, they’re making memes, they’re writing blogs, but they’re not really, [00:26:00] most of the time they’re not really expecting to make money from it. They’re just doing it because it’s exciting for them or they get some sort of satisfaction out of just producing it and putting it out there. It’s accessible to the world of the internet.
[Daniel] Now, while those people still have to work their day job to support themselves and then they’re going to come do their music and their day job might happen to be something that they experience as relatively soul crushing, in terms of the possibilities they know how to access. Then they come [00:26:30] do that little bit of music. You think about well, what would happen if we just supported them to be in the position to do music as deeply as they could, wanted to. What if they didn’t have to try and gear it towards what was sellable, so that they could then switch from the soul crushing to the money making music, but what was really authentically what they felt was their greatest offering and their most unique offering?
You get a very different kind of creativity happening. One of the issues right now we see in this kind of post [00:27:00] fact world where what is fake news and what is not fake news and what one of the issues of the inability to make sense of almost anything that we’re facing is how much of any news that you find or any idea has some financial interest associated with it. How much education is in advertorial. In some way, how much of science itself is actually just the R&D arm of capitalism funded by something that has a vested interest attached? [00:27:30] This is a very tricky process, where what we can actually believe in and then how much of music is geared towards what is going to have the right kinds of frames for memability, so that it can poppy enough to self Pepsi or whatever rather than what is actually what someone most authentically wants to create, that other people would most authentically want to experience. You think about what it means to create systems that remove all of those other agendas, so [00:28:00] that there are no vested interest agendas.
Now, we talked about the criteria for infrastructure, what that had to be. Here’s the criteria for social systems. We said governance is decision making. Economics is decision making and incentive, but we just started to kind of hint at the incentive moves from primarily extrinsic incentive to intrinsic incentive. You have a system that’s all about facilitating intrinsic, generative incentive, which de-necessitates most [00:28:30] of extrinsic incentive, which becomes key. Then economics is largely about resource allocation systems, optimization of resource allocation towards all the various goals that matter.
Most decision making in governance is around resource decisions. Law is how do we make sure that those decisions actually get followed through. We can actually think of economics as the heart of social systems. The key criteria for the future of macroeconomics is that all the externalities get internalized, [00:29:00] meaning everything that we affect by a decision is factored in the decision making process and the process by which resources get conferred to things. Another way to say this is that the agency, the incentive of every agent, whether it’s a person or a group of people called a company or a country, even though I believe both of those two things will become obsolete, just think any person or group of people, any agent, the incentive of that agent has [00:29:30] to be perfectly aligned with the well being of every other agent and of the commons as a whole.
The degree to which the individual agents are incentivized to do something that is externalizing harm to other agents of the commons is the degree to which those problematic externalities will continue to happen ubiquitously in a decentralized fashion at scale because they are incentivized in decentralized fashion at scale. That’s the key of the future of macroeconomics is the alignment of agency and well [00:30:00] being from individuals and commons. That correlates with closing the loop. We talked about a linear materials economy moving to a closed loop one. In the same way here, we’re closing the loop between agency of individuals’ well being of others. All the externalities being internalized is moving from an open loop system where I could affect things, but not internalize those effects in the cost equation to now all internalized in the cost equation.
Then that corresponds to a world view [00:30:30] where my sense of self and my sense of the rest of the universe are not fundamentally separate concepts. I wouldn’t exist without oxygen at all. I wouldn’t exist without the plants that make the oxygen. I wouldn’t exist without the bugs and the fungus that make the plants work to make the oxygen. I am not an individual. I do happen to have a self organizing membrane that has some individuality to it, but I am an emergent property of everything else. When you close the loop between sense of self [00:31:00] and sense of other, then what’s in my best interest, what’s in the best interest of others, also there’s a loop closure between advantage self at the expense of others or sacrifice self for the well being of others. Both of which are nonsense in a radically interconnected system.
What we’re looking at is how we close all the causal loops, so that everything that influences decision making is being informed by everything being influenced.
[Euvie] That sounds like quite a spiritual proposition also. It relates to some of [00:31:30] the ideas that I’ve heard, for example Ken Wilber talking about.
[Euvie] Where this kind of evolution of the system and evolution of the self converge.
[Daniel] I believe I actually have the quadrants on the white board behind me from a conversation earlier. Ultimately, if I’ll just use the quadrants from integral philosophy for a moment, when we were talking about the evolution of infrastructure, we were talking about the lower right hand quadrant, the plural, not just single external. All of physical infrastructure [00:32:00] is the physicality of the collective. When we’re talking about social structures, we’re talking about the lower left, which is the interior, the agreement fields. We agree to use this word to symbolize this experience or this meaning. We agree to denote this value to these things. We agree to make decisions in this way is the lower left.
The upper left is our individual value system, our world view, our internal singular process, which is affected by education [00:32:30] and culture and media and et cetera. The upper right would be human physiology. We usually think of physiology as nature and the other three collectively as nurture. The other three can change and collectively make up culture, which is nurture, which is then conditioning the expression of genetic predisposition. We are, of course, changing radically one generation to the next mimetically, much faster than we’re changing genetically. That’s not an adequate way to think of it because [00:33:00] physiology can actually affect human experience and human predisposition radically independent of just genome change through natural selection. Everyone who’s had their hormones off knows that you can be incapable of accessing certain emotions or incapable of being out of other emotions. Everyone who’s had their neurochemistry deeply off or just been very sick or tired has known certain cognitive abilities can shut down or other ones be over predisposed.
When you realize that empathy runs [00:33:30] on certain neural networks and that can be down regulated or up regulated. Complex thinking runs in certain kinds of neural processes and if those are damaged or not developed, it can lead to fundamentalism and only being able to see something one way from a hardware point of view, not just a mimetic point of view. You can also up regulate the kind of connectomic complexity that leads to more net information processing and perspective taking.
What has to happen in the upper right [00:34:00] … We can think about the upper quadrants as being about the individual. The upper right is kind of the hardware of the individual. The upper left is the software of the individual. You can think about human physiology and then human mimetics, world view, values, definition of success, psyche is the software. Of course, it’s a place where the software and hardware are not as distinct as they are in computer systems. Every software change is actually plastically changing the hardware and vice versa. The hardware is predisposing [00:34:30] software, so that you can see the analogy of it, also it’s limit.
Then you can think of the lower quadrants, where the lower right is actually the hardware of the collective. Infrastructure’s the hardware of the collective and the social systems are the software of the collective. Those four, the hardware and software of the individual and the collective is one taxonomy that is necessary and sufficient for understanding human experience and human behavior. There are things that condition human behavior in the upper right, [00:35:00] physiologic predispositions for human behavior. Predispositions for feeling more depressed, feeling happier, having more empathy, less, et cetera.
There are mimetic predispositions for behavior, religions, value systems, trauma, et cetera. There are economic and cultural predispositions for behavior. As long as that old growth redwood tree is worth $100,000 cut down as timber, but it’s worth nothing alive on my balance [00:35:30] sheet, then that economic, that extractionary non appreciable recognizing economic system is going to lead to cutting all the damn trees down, which we’ve seen. The same with the whale being worth a million dollars on a fishing boat, but worth nothing alive in the ocean. The economics conditions human behavior.
Infrastructure actually conditions human behavior, which is an interesting, but important point. It ends up being not neutral mimetically. If you have infrastructure where [00:36:00] the only way to get electricity is from coal, which we know is causing inexorable harm to other life, mountain top removal, mining, mercury in the ocean, whatever, but we need electricity to live, you can not have full empathy in that infrastructural system. You actually have to down regulate your empathy to justify getting along and even though you’ll want to not look at certain pictures and videos when they come across because you know you’re contributing to things you actually can’t really handle contributing to, so you’ll turn down your awareness. You’ll change [00:36:30] your behavior. You’ll turn down empathy because infrastructure’s actually predisposing patterns of mimetics and behavior.
All four of those quadrants are irreducible to each other, but interaffecting. If we have solutions that are in any quadrant only, they will be inadequate. What you try and do in any quadrant will necessarily affect and be affected by the other ones. If we want to think about civilization, it’s not civilization design because we’re not talking about top down architecture. [00:37:00] It’s the design of processes that lead to emergence. If we want to think about civilization birth midwifing, supporting the emergence of a viable self organizing, healthy, resilient civilization, we think about the foundational shifts that have to happen in each of those quadrants. We mentioned most of them involve closing open loops, so that our decision making [00:37:30] is omni-considerate. Our decision making ends up being in the highest good of all that is being affected by the decision.
[Euvie] What are some of the more pressing loops that need closing right now, in your opinion, especially moving into 2017, what’s happening in the world right now, what’s happening in the States?
[Daniel] With the U.S. elections, 2017, one of the things that we see is a system, a political system, that has been breaking and really broken for some time [00:38:00] having more complete and obvious breakage. We see a Democratic Party that has all of the kind of vested interests that it has coevolved with and [inaudible [00:38:12] structures that it has having supported one of the least well liked candidates in recent history and anti supported one of the most well liked candidates in recent history resulting in its failure.
The Republican [00:38:30] Party failed to have any really adequate candidates come forward and so a candidate that represented change by being outside of the system won, even though it in so many ways represented regressive change. The two party system as a whole broke. Each of the major platforms broke. Where a [00:39:00] relatively small percentage of people in the United States used to know that there was real corruption involved in the political process, a much higher percentage of people know that now and have less faith that just going to the polls and voting is an adequate solution to the revolution that they might hope happens. What that portends for future election cycles and also how people start [00:39:30] to have civic engagement independent of elections is all interesting.
Trump is a very interesting person in this position with the cabinet that’s coming because there’s plenty of really concerning things. There’s plenty of really concerning things in terms of the emboldening of bigotry that has already been here, so deeply, but that in being brought to the light and the surface and emboldened in that way [00:40:00] is both more concerning, more problematic, but also more capable of being healed because it’s more obvious, represents an existentially catastrophic view on the climate and energy, but is also starting to be surrounded by some people that have meaningfully better perspectives like Elon Musk and others. Hopefully there is influence potential there.
We also see things like really [00:40:30] seeking to remove people from office who have had crony capitalists ties for such a long time and propose things like auditing the Fed that are actually revolutionary. Revolutionary in a good way. It’s very interesting to see what could happen over the next time period here, but what we’re seeing is … let’s look at it from a larger sense because some of the things are happening in other places in the world, not just in politics, [00:41:00] but in the failure of several developed countries’ economic systems and et cetera. If you think about it in terms of systems theory and complex adaptive systems, there’s a kind of foundational principle that says, “Complexity will evolve within an organizational system inexorably just because there’s movement and with movement there are self interacting dynamics and that’s going to lead to an increased complexity.”
[00:41:30] Complexity’s going to evolve within any organizational system until it actually exceeds that organizational system’s capacity to manage. When it exceeds it, you’re going to start getting increased chaos and then increased entropy and then the dissolution of that organizational system. Then you’re either going to get the entropic step down to the previous level of organization or out of the chaos, you [00:42:00] get the emergence of a higher level of organization that isn’t a retrofit of the previous system, but a fundamentally new kind of system. That’s a place that globally, I would say, we’re at.
We have … representative democracy is just fundamentally not capable of handling the kinds of collaborative decision making we need to make right now. When you think about the founding of the United States in a time when people would [00:42:30] get together in a town hall, without representative decision making. They’d get together and all vote on something. Then someone would have to be picked to represent the whole group who was going to ride a horse to where all the other town halls met to decide what the state did. It made sense to have representatives for very real technologic limits. There were other reasons that were argued, but that was a part of the ideology of the whole thing.
Then when you couldn’t have a town hall big enough for the whole population, so we have an internet town [00:43:00] hall big enough for the whole population. Nobody has to ride a horse. We don’t need the representatives in the same way. We have people that actually have real topic matter expertise that can be groups of decentralized peer to peer mavens that can actually make relevant decisions based on real knowledge of how those kinds of systems work, connected with the data and the facts necessary. We’ve already seen these kind of peer to peer systems do better decision making [00:43:30] at the scale of complexity they’re operating than a representative democratic system would. That system served evolutionary relevance, but it is obsolete. If you think about it, could you have representative democracy where you have people in positions of legislative power, where those people are still agents within capitalism, who need to advantage themselves within capitalism as individuals and members of families, could you have representative democracy [00:44:00] and capitalism together and not have it become crony capitalism?
Well, we have never seen it happen. It’s just a structural thing. It’s not just particular bad people. It’s just structural. You have a system where you incentivize people to acquire stuff and then you put people in a position to legislate in the interest of things that they’re more interested in and that’s going to happen. Capitalism, an economic system that externalizes as much harm to the commons as possible [00:44:30] and where your profit margin’s actually proportional to how much harm you can externalize that pits all different kinds of people against each other in ways that keep enmity unavoidable. A linear materials economy that is devastating the [inaudible [00:44:46] that we live on across the entire thing. That whole system, it wasn’t self-terminating when the complexity was low enough that we had a billion people and we cut trees down with axes. With [00:45:00] the kinds of industrial fishing boats that can just trawl the entire ocean, with slash and burn, ICBM and seven billion of us, that same kind of mind set we had becomes very quickly extinctionary.
The scope of our power, the complexity of our problems, a number of us are making those systems fail. Now we can think of this as the baby at the end. The complexity [00:45:30] of its being kept growing, which meant more and more cells, which meant a bigger baby until it was at the end of how big it could fit in there and never get out of the birth canal, which triggered the contractions for it to come out.
Now sometimes, the mom and baby die in the birth process. That can happen, but if it’s supported properly, then rather than die in the birth process, you get discreet phase shift into the next phase of evolution. That’s exactly where I see us at over the next, from an evolutionary time period, very small period of time, which is [00:46:00] the ability to have the evolution and emergence of systems that support a globally interconnected human civilization that is actually on the asset side of nature’s balance sheet rather than on the liability side.
[Euvie] What kind of things can we do as a civilization to kind of aid in that midwifery process to allow for this baby to be born?
[Daniel] Any of the places where you can [00:46:30] help close major open loops and then do it in ways that can lead to scalability are things worth looking at. If you think about infrastructure, the ability to change production and waste management manufacturing to a closed loop process, so you start thinking about could we have decentralized systems of 3-D, 4-D printing with modular upgradeability [00:47:00] built in rather than designed in obsolescence and proprietary nonsense built in and cradle to cradle design built in. Then have them connected to recycling systems that move to lower entropy and higher efficiency, moving eventually towards things like atomic sorting. Where then the old things get to be brought back into the individual parts to make new things, all run on renewable energy sources, low toxicity, low entropy, renewable energy sources.
[00:47:30] On the biologic side of that, the stem cell meat, the vertical farming, the synthetic biology as part of the creative materials process and then the waste management of the organic fractions involves anaerobic digestion, algae scrubbers, et cetera and so there is no waste. There is no raw materials sourcing that isn’t part of that closed loop. Building those systems and not just individual technologies, but the guilds, the ecosystems of those technologies that lead to closed loop sustainability of that system [00:48:00] and then scalability of those systems, that is stuff that is worth building.
If you look at building the future of our social systems and knowing that the goal of our social systems has to be aligning the incentive of agents with the well being of other agents in the commons, you start thinking about how to close the incentive well being gap, how to close the externality gap, then building ways to measure externalities [00:48:30] and just them to then be able to quantify them and internalize them. Those are technologies worth building. To be able to build a balance sheet of the commons, the built world commons, the natural world commons, to be able to have data mine sources as well as repurposed IOT sensor systems to have real time, sensor driven balance sheet of the commons. Then we can see where the commons are net increasing and their resilience versus decreasing, where they’re decreasing, what actions by what players are involved in that [00:49:00] and how to really quantify it. Those are things that should happen.
Starting to move toward things like robotic automation of the shitty jobs that does allow the ability to have things like a common wealth economics really start to emerge. Then looking at the accounting systems of how a common wealth economics access based systems, rather than possession based systems, so when you start to think about people’s access to Uber rather than owning a car, if you had an Uber system where there were enough [00:49:30] cars in close proximity for peak time, that’s the total amount of cars that have to be in the system. That’s still something like a twentieth of the amount of cars that are in systems where people drive themselves in the cars for 95% of their time sitting. That’s a lot less resource taken out of the earth for actually more utility, value, safety, et cetera in the transportation system, especially as those cars become self driving and then all electric upgradeable. Then everyone can have access to the highest transportation [00:50:00] possible, rather than what you could afford previously. Your access to the resource doesn’t limit my access to the resource. Whereas your possession would limit my access.
In the situation where there’s a finite amount of stuff and the less of it there is, the more value is added to it, but not real utility value. Even though gold has some real utility value as a conductor, as a reflector, we don’t use it for its utility value. We put it in bars and put it in a safe where nobody really uses it for anything at all, other than [00:50:30] representational value based on its scarcity, but we will damage ecosystems that are actually supporting our atmosphere and cleaning our water and making pollinators work to get to the gold. Because there’s enough air that I don’t have any differential value having some of it over someone else, there’s no value, so we just keep ruining the shit out of it.
How to have a real valuation system that is valuing proportional to real value, rather than nonsense value that’s about differential advantage and competitive systems. Building those valuation [00:51:00] systems, those are the kinds of things that need to happen. Building the block chain kinds of technologies, the post [etherium [00:51:06] kinds of technologies that allow non corruptible contracts and currency and metacurrency exchange in governance.
In the social systems, these are all things that need to happen to bring the future of social system and world view. Building better systems of education that actually help development children’s innate, unique [00:51:30] capacities and their intrinsic incentives to thrive and experience life fully and contribute to life fully. Helping to development and evolve those education systems and then helping to also develop media that gets to support people with real information, so the future of sense making systems and news networks and educational resources where information that is trustworthy and relevant happens. Peer to peer vetting processes, et cetera, as well as the right kinds of [00:52:00] psychotherapeutic processes for reconditioning people that have went through so much trauma and damage and then being able to be in a position to raise future humans with less damage. Built world technologies that are designed to evolve and support the well being of the humans in those systems, while being sustainable with the planet, rather than being cognizant of only very few metrics they affect.
That means paint that isn’t filled with VOC’s that are carcinogens and neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. It means paying attention [00:52:30] to the kind of lighting that’s involved in all the building materials, et cetera, for not just aesthetics and the utility of keeping rain off, but for recognizing that if humans are going to spend 90% of their time in built structures, how do you build those structures in a way that is conditioning optimum human experience and predisposition of the people who are in those, that kind of intentional architecture and design process. All of these are the kinds of things that internalize externalities, [00:53:00] that do more comprehensive design for all that is affected, close the causal loops and don’t just support something being better within a self-terminating system, but support the infrastructure, the core structures of new systems emerging.
[Mike] Okay, this is interesting. A lot of young people ask us for advice on what they can do to contribute to a more positive and sustainable future. It seems like, from your framework, closing loops [00:53:30] is the big answer. They can close loops in any number of industries, but what would you add to that?
[Daniel] The fact of them asking you the question is something I would have them look at. If they are asking you what they can work on to have their life be of greatest value to life, it’s a great care. If they understand you as people who have studied things that are relevant to that, getting your input id valuable. To the degree though that they are seeing you as authorities and they’re looking for an external [00:54:00] authority to give them the answer to what to do with their life, that thinking itself is one of the things they have to overcome. If you think about the way most people have been raised, as children we very rarely got punished for doing what the authorities wanted us to do. Most all of the times we got punished were for doing things that we wanted to, that maybe appealed to our own sensibilities or desires, intuitions, feelings. Most of the time [00:54:30] that we got praised and rewarded was for doing things the authorities either wanted us to do or at least aligned with what we figured from previous expressions, they would probably want us to do.
This is a very deep conditioning, when we are most susceptible to conditioning to look to others, to look to teachers and Sunday school leaders and parents and authorities to tell us how to live our lives. When we touched our bodies, we found that [00:55:00] the parts of our bodies that felt best to touch were the parts that we got most in trouble for touching, obviously what feels good to us is bad, so we can’t trust our feelings. The authorities know that it’s bad, so we can apparently trust the authorities, but not our feelings. No one was ever really interested in our thoughts or perspectives. There were predefined right answers to things. We got praised when we got them and we got in trouble when we didn’t get them. People were not generally interested in our [00:55:30] aesthetic and design ideas. They were interested in us keeping clean things that were someone else’s design ideas.
We got conditioned very deeply in that system. That is part of the system that is self-terminating because most people are working at jobs that are causing more net harm to the world than benefit, that they don’t actually feel good about, but they do not trust their own feeling or believe that they can do something [00:56:00] else or know how to actually figure out what to do or believe in themselves enough to self assess or self initiate. Most people, when they look at various situations in the world, actually feel really not okay with much of the way the world is, in ways that come actually from love in them, that come from beauty in them, even if expressed as anger or jadedness. They don’t believe in their own ability to find solutions, to figure shit out, so they just numb out. [00:56:30] They numb out on alcohol or on TV or whatever they do.
When you look at the people that have ever meaningfully moved the world forward, where they solved some problems that had not been solved, that really needed to be solved, nobody taught them how to do it because no one could because the problem wasn’t solved yet. Nobody could have taught Edison how to make a light bulb. Nobody could have told Gandhi how to get home rule for India. One of the fascinating things was that they decided to do it because they knew that it was important before having any idea how [00:57:00] to do it. Then they trusted in both their rightness of it enough and their own capability to learn enough to really apply themselves deeply and to continue through all the early not successes until they found stuff.
What I would encourage young people to do is to take profound responsibility for their existence and to know that there are a lot of people and a lot of books and a lot of courses that have valuable shit to teach them, [00:57:30] but if an adequate answer to what they should do with their life existed anywhere, that whole thing would be done already. The fact that the things aren’t done means that all the best teachers and thinkers have not got it yet. They have ideas. They have things to learn. You should absolutely learn from them and you’re going to have something to add, not only in terms of your work, but also in terms of your creativity.
I would say look around at the world and see all of the things that really bother you. [00:58:00] Realize that them bothering you is part of your guidance. See all the things that you really love, all the things that are beautiful and you’ll realize they’re connected. Animals are beautiful and then all the devastation of animals in their habitat is really bothersome. People are beautiful, so homelessness and war bothers them. Children are beautiful so bad education systems are bothersome. Look at what you love. Look at how what you love is not well supported [00:58:30] in various areas. Realize that it does not have to be that way any more than the world had to stay dark in the time of Edison and yet for all of human history before Edison, it did. Taking on something that seemed impossible literally delivered the world from darkness in that way. Then study the shit out of the topic, without thinking that a completely adequate solution is there.
There’s probably a lot of partially good solutions, maybe a technology that is totally good [00:59:00] technology, but it hasn’t, market feasibility hasn’t came about yet or the ways that meme out there or parts of the ideas are there, but they need some [decise [00:59:06] or whatever it is. Study the problem well. Study what an adequate solution would look like. Gain a real clear insight of what an adequate solution looks like in your own area of what you care to contribute to. As things emerge that you feel like you can contribute to, as you’re learning about it, contribute to them. Continue to assess on your own [00:59:30] and initiate on your own with, of course, good input from all the places of good input. That’s the key thing, I would say. Take really deep responsibility for the impact that you have in your life while you’re here. Then all of the study, all the training, all the application that you need to empower the kind of impact you want to have, make sure that happens.
[Mike] Excellent advice.
[Euvie] That’s great, yeah.
[Mike] Daniel, thank you for joining us. This has been enlightening.
[Euvie] Yeah, the thoughts that you’ve done on all of these things is fascinating.
[Daniel] It’s a delight to be here [01:00:00] with you and when I see two intelligent, creative people who are looking at the world and saying what is a vision of a beautiful world that is commensurate to our full capability and potential and that is realistic and grounded in the face of our real capability and potential and asking what you can do to help bring about the positive versions of the future, helping to even get positive visions of the future from people who have thought about it well and share those with people is an incredible work. I’m delighted to see this podcast and what you’re doing and delighted to be here with you on it.
[Mike] [01:00:30] Thanks. We’re looking forward to chatting with you again.
[Euvie] All right. That’s it for this episode. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thanks for listening. If you want the show notes, they will be at futurethinkers.org/36.
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Today our guest is Daniel Schmachtenberger. Daniel is an evolutionary philosopher and strategist, and social engineer. He is the founder of Critical Path Global, a research and design institute focused on developing an integrated set of technologies and processes for supporting a distributed systems for humanity’s total evolution.
His work follows in steps of Buckminster Fuller, and he focuses on complex systems, evolution of humanity, and global resource allocation planning and strategy. His aim is to find the shortest path to a fundamentally redesigned world system that supports the highest quality of life for all life in an ongoing way. He specifically focuses on developing economic and governmental systems that by design incentivize life-enhancing behavior, decentralized problem solving, and conscious participation.
Daniel Schmachtenberger has also been involved in spiritual development work with the Maharishi University of Management.
Daniel Shmachtenberger: Evolving Humanity
His recent project is Neurohacker Collective, a smart drug brand with a vision of holistic human neural optimization. Their first product Qualia is a reference to a philosophical concept meaning “an individual instance of subjective, conscious experience”.
In this episode, Daniel Schmachtenberger talks about many deep and fascinating ideas to do with building a better future for humanity. He describes why we need non-self-terminating and antifragile systems to sustain life on our planet.The key to future macroeconomics is the alignment of agency and well-being Click To Tweet
In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:[3:45] – the criteria for creating an anti-fragile and non-self-terminating system
[15:22] – post growth materials economy
[18:14] – the issue of jobs and automation
[22:26] – educational systems of the future
[30:26] – a world view where the sense of self and the sense of the universe are not separate
[35:35] – optimizing human physiology and chemistry
[40:55] – complex systems theory and emergence
[42:57] – decentralized decision making and the blockchain
[53:19] – what young people can do to contribute to the future
“What are the necessary and sufficient criteria of a sustainable, non-self-terminating, thriving, anti-fragile world that does obsolete the catastrophic and existential risks that are the cause of suffering, create higher qualities of life? As far as infrastructure goes, it does require these three criteria: closed-loop, post-growth, and upcycling.”
“I am not an individual. I do happen to have a self organizing membrane that has some individuality to it, but I am an emergent property of everything else”
“The world didn’t have to stay dark in the time of Edison, and yet for all of human history before Edison it did. And taking on something that seemed impossible literally delivered the world from darkness.”
“Take really deep responsibility for the impact you have in your life while you’re here, and then all of the study, all the training, all the application to empower the kind of impact you want to have.”
Mentions and Resources:
- Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller
- Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
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