Breaking the Kyklos, part 2

Dynamic systems are a bitch. They are, well, dynamic, consisting of many parts and are, very often, unpredictable. For example, one of the things that falls into this category is called “society”. Sometimes we want to predict how a society will behave under certain conditions. We know that guessing it accurately is impossible. However, sometimes a discussion about the dynamics can be helpful, especially if we want to obtain a certain result. For example, a stable and advancing society.

I have already pinpointed some inherent problems with the system called Democracy. I also noted that replacing it with something else is not the preferable solution. So let’s see what else we may have at our disposal.

Every mathematician or physicist knows that finding a solution to a dynamic system consists of two parts. The first one is the “function” or the equation, i. e. a “set of rules” that dictates how the entities of a system behave. The other, equally important if you are going for a realistic solution in a realistic, exact and particular situation, is called starting (or initial) conditions. So, the behaviour of every dynamic system depends both on the “rules” (equation) and on initial conditions. Furthermore, applying exactly the same set of rules to different starting conditions can create very different results.

To apply this principle on the subject of my previous post, where I discussed what is needed for a functioning and long-lasting stable society, the “set of rules” (equation) will be called “democracy”, while the starting conditions that would lead to a favourable result, will be “an educated, informed and critically thinking citizenry”.

Well, now, it is quite evident that the starting conditions we want couldn’t be further from the ones we have had at the time of starting the equation. Not only that, but today we are moving further away from them.

In other words, if we agree that some form of democracy is the best available system – and we must do so because, so far, we haven’t been able to find a better one, even though it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist – it means we can’t find a better solution equation. There simply isn’t one available (yet).

However, it is clear some vital aspects of western civilization are taking a downward path as a direct consequence of the democratic paradigm. Looking at that path, it is obvious that something needs to change. The only remaining thing that can be a subject of (re)consideration are the very starting conditions.

Which is a problem. Simply, starting (or initial) conditions are exactly that: initial. Once the process has started, they are a thing of the past. History is not a computer program, it cannot be stopped, debugged, reset and restarted. Someone may come up with the idea that  democracy itself should be stopped and restarted, to see if we can get it going under different starting conditions, but this wouldn’t go without drastic shifts in the social and economic structures with large-scale violence as a very probable side-product, while a positive result would still  be far, far, far from certain.

On the other hand, the decline of the educational and cultural aspects of society we are witnessing today may well be an overture to the spontaneous, unconscious and self-inflicted decline of democracy by various other methods: selling human rights to corporate power in exchange for entertainment and stability, rallying under religious or national flags or any other way of social counter-evolution.

But, under a spontaneous resetting of the society, the chance for setting up new starting conditions does not exist; it would only mean repeating the same cycle, or, as the old Greek philosophers called it, Kyklos, all over again, together with the mistakes of the first round. The problem within this problem is that there may not be an opportunity for a second attempt. The depletion of easily accessible natural resources that happened during the first startup of our technological civilization would never allow the rise from  Second Barbarism if it happened, and it is likely that, once our civilization falls from the high technical level we are currently at, there would be no return.

The solution to this problem may be testing out some variants while we’re still ahead, namely, creating additional controlled environments where the same solution could be applied with different starting conditions. Practically, along with “removing all eggs from the same basket”, which has been emphasized as the main reason for space exploration, space expansion could allow new societies to be created with much less bad influence from the old one.

This was the topic of the lecture half-seriously titled “Relocation, isolation, separation, amputation: The Final Solution of the Human Question on Planet Earth” I held at the last SFeraKon[1]. Basically, present societi(es) on Earth are burdened with too much baggage from the past; derelict allegiances, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and other traditions that do not correspond with the present point in history,

Together they make up a set of flawed starting conditions for the solution-at-hand. It is not a matter of taking down a dictator anymore or giving more power to “the people”. In western democracies the power already is in the hands of people. More so than ever before in history, with all the good and the bad that comes with it. (Also, it could be argued that the problems discussed here are caused exactly by the will of the people).

If one wants to be a revolutionary, he (or she) will encounter a problem: there are no more Winter Castles to storm; the oppression of people these days is not performed by dictators, but by other people. The Dictatorship of Majority cannot be overthrown by force because it would mean either a new Dictatorship of Minority or genocide. So, beating them is not possible; persuading them, as shown previously, may also run into some obstacles.

What remains seems to be, simply, to escape and start anew.


[1] In the end, the lecture turned out to be half-serious itself because basing a talk on personal opinion may be fun only until some well informed people from the audience decide it would be funny to interrupt it with facts.

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