Towards human scale societies


In the September CIIC workshop in Auckland we discussed the effects of anthropocentrism, and we concluded by compiling a set of assumptions that may assist in reducing anthropocentric bias and in developing approaches for re-framing ecological collapse and climate breakdown into an opportunity for reinventing the foundations of civilisation:

  1. People are empathetic
  2. Given the level of automation of manual labour and given our technological capabilities, we have the time to implement good ideas
  3. Knowledge and scientific understanding is valuable and worthwhile preserving
  4. Humans have individual agency
  5. Exerting power over others is not acceptable
  6. Non-hierarchical competency networks learn faster than hierarchical organisations
  7. In a competency network human efforts can be coordinated via an advice process
  8. Human economies are best conceived as closed-loop zero-waste systems, and human progress can be measured in terms of improvements in waste metrics
  9. The value of knowledge is maximised by making it freely available for validation and use
  10. Most people try to do the best possible thing given their circumstances

Perhaps even the word civilisation is counter-productive when attempting to reduce anthropocentric bias. Perhaps it is more appropriate to define the goal as (re)discovering the foundations for human scale societies.

Exploring new cultural terrain

Whilst the latest IPCC report has made a few waves in the mainstream media, the cultural inertia maintained via the hierarchical structure of most human organisations / institutions stands in the way of any timely process of organisational learning.

However, in a world of more than 7 billion people it is easy to underestimate the number of individuals and emerging organisations on the fringes of mainstream society that have already embarked on entirely new trajectories, leaving behind obsolete ideologies and simplistic economic dogma.

The discussions, interviews, and talks below illustrate a number of individual and collective trajectories that explore new terrain and that generate learning resources that are available to all of us. Each one of these trajectories covers a complementary aspect of the current “version” of the Anthropocene, and only in combination do they allow a listener who is not an expert in all the aspects of  the Anthropocene (no one can possibly be) to grasp the essence of the current dynamics unfolding in the biosphere:

Joe Brewer and Daniel Thorson : State of the Collapse

Joe Brewer was one of the organisers of the inaugural Cultural Evolution Conference in 2017. The interview above covers a lot of ground:

  • Shifting from an anthropocentric lens to a living systems lens
  • Recognising the various time and spatial scales of the process of collapse around us
  • Learning to value diversity via learning to grieve for the loss of diversity
  • Creating human-scale learning organisations that are capable of reinventing the foundations of civilisation

The questions that this interview does not cover relate to languages and techniques for sharing and preserving valuable knowledge. These questions become important over the longer term (decades, centuries and longer) to prevent the re-emergence of pop cultures, personality cults and other social diseases that have led to the current state of the planetary ecosystem and to learning disabled human societies.

Brad Katsuyama : The Stock Market had become an Illusion

This short talk will be useful to those who are unfamiliar with the myopic lens of financial economics – and also to those who are still convinced that whilst capitalism may not be perfect, that it still is the best way for coordinating human economic endeavours.

The talk illustrates the logic of capital, which I like to refer to as busyness as usual.

It is interesting to note that the presenter recognises the absurdity of some of the recent technological developments, but remains completely stuck in the box of competitive economic dogma, and in his work is completely detached from the life generating and life sustaining processes that operate on our planet.

Julian Assange : The generation being born now is the last to be free

This interview with Julian Assange covers further aspects of the hyper-competitive logic that has spread through all societies reliant on financial capitalism. The interview covers:

  • The level of competition for control at all levels of scale
  • The role of corporations and nations as core institutions in the competitive game

The bleak outlook of someone in the position of Julian Assange is perfectly understandable. As a result his reasoning does not consider the innate (even if suppressed by cultural beliefs and norms) collaborative tendencies of humans. Julian’s analysis assumes a perpetuation of super-human scale (“civilisation scale”) institutions as the dominant form of human organisation, and it ignores the possibilities of organising collaboratively at human scale, within an emerging global network of open source knowledge.

Michael Buerk and panellists : Moral Maze : Climate Change

This panel discussion provides insight into the current levels of awareness within the population about ecosystem collapse and climate breakdown. It is also interesting to hear George Monbiot articulate the need for non-fungible metrics from the physical world (for example to limit the amount of air travel as an essential part of reducing carbon emissions) and highlight the danger of misleading imaginary financial metrics.

Chris Hedges: Corporate Totalitarianism: The End Game

This is a longer talk. The link above cuts straight to the end, which offers a great commentary on the logic of capital and “investment”. Chris Hedges reminds the audience of  the innate collaborative tendencies of humans and through his work illustrates how to develop trusted relationships.

One important aspect that Chris Hedges does not cover is the topic of human scale, and the option to organise collaboratively at human scale. The risks and consequences of all super human scale forms of human organisation are perhaps best described in Joseph Tainter’s analysis of patterns of civilisation collapse.

Onwards towards trusted collaboration at human scale

Join us for the next CIIC workshop on 8 December (Auckland) and 15 December (Melbourne)! CIIC provides a great opportunity for all participants to outline wicked problems they are wrestling with, and to obtain access to the perspectives and questions from others with complementary expertise and interests.

Dates and times


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