Beyond civilisation, towards collective intelligence

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The era of human civilisations is coming to an end. The anthropocentric era of civilisation only lasted around 10,000 years, and has led the living planet into the sixth mass extinction – an ecological and geological transformation that is as profound as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, currently on track to result in a planet without humans.

People talk about a global ecological crisis, a climate crisis, an economic crisis, an institutional crisis, and a mental health crisis. These crises are not isolated but highly interconnected.

To date human civilisations have always been built on stories and on the social popularity of specific individuals. This era of human gene-culture co-evolution has come to an end. Today everyone:

  1. is able to observe ecological destruction first hand
  2. is experiencing the effects of climate breakdown to some degree
  3. is confronted with the disconnect between economic dogma and the reality of severe social inequality
  4. is noticing the inability of institutions to meet human needs
  5. is affected by mental health problems, either personally or within their immediate social environment

People no longer trust institutions and the old story of civilisation. Instead people are comparing notes and are learning from those whose experiences reflect their own, via collaborative networks of tacit knowledge that are breaking out of the constraints imposed by the established institutions of our current civilisation such as corporations and nation states.

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Energy intensive and sometimes deadly competition (wars, trade embargos etc.) between social groups are being replaced by sharing and (in)validation of knowledge in the public domain, and by creative collaborative exploration of new ideas at human scale – both in the digital realm and at a local level.

Human behaviour is less and less determined exclusively by institutions and authorities, and more and more by the flows of knowledge and ideas in a rapidly growing number of interconnected human scale competency networks. Trusted relationships between specific people are becoming more valuable than the technological platforms used for communication.

The overlapping crises of civilisation are impossible to address via technocratic solutions delivered within the framework of financial economics. No wonder that the institutions of our “civilisation” are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to capture and retain people’s attention.

The movements listed below are examples of globally networked collaborative efforts to share and validate knowledge, and to translate insights and ideas into creative collaborations at human scale.

Ecology

International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems

Established in 2015, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) works to shape debates on food system reform through policy-oriented research and direct engagement with policy processes around the world. The panel brings together environmental scientists, development economists, nutritionists, agronomists, and sociologists, as well as experienced practitioners from civil society and social movements.

The panel is co-chaired by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and Olivia Yambi, nutritionist and former UNICEF representative to Kenya. IPES-Food employs a holistic food systems lens and focuses on the political economy of food systems, i.e., the differential power of actors to influence priority-setting and decision-making.

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Worldwatch Institute


Through research and outreach that inspire action, the Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world that meets human needs. The Institute’s top mission objectives are universal access to renewable energy and nutritious food, expansion of environmentally sound jobs and development, transformation of cultures from consumerism to sustainability, and an early end to population growth through healthy and intentional childbearing.

Founded in 1974 by Lester Brown as an independent research institute devoted to global environmental concerns, Worldwatch was quickly recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its foresight and accessible, fact-based analysis. Worldwatch develops innovative solutions to intractable problems, emphasizing a blend of government leadership, private sector enterprise, and citizen action that can make a sustainable future a reality.

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Extinction rebellion


We need to take action in the world and we need to look after ourselves. This rebellion is fuelled by our love, which is growing because we are willing to face the grief of these times. Grieving is part of our work. We hold the following to be true:

This is our darkest hour. Humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history. One which, unless immediately addressed, will catapult us further into the destruction of all we hold dear: this nation, its peoples, our ecosystems and the future of generations to come.

The science is clear:- we are in the sixth mass extinction event and we will face catastrophe if we do not act swiftly and robustly.

Biodiversity is being annihilated around the world. Our seas are poisoned, acidic and rising. Flooding and desertification will render vast tracts of land uninhabitable and lead to mass migration.

Our air is so toxic that the United Kingdom is breaking the law. It harms the unborn whilst causing tens of thousands to die. The breakdown of our climate has begun. There will be more wildfires, unpredictable super storms, increasing famine and untold drought as food supplies and fresh water disappear.

The ecological crises that are impacting upon this nation, and indeed this planet and its wildlife can no longer be ignored, denied nor go unanswered by any beings of sound rational thought, ethical conscience, moral concern, or spiritual belief.

In accordance with these values, the virtues of truth and the weight of scientific evidence, we declare it our duty to act on behalf of the security and well-being of our children, our communities and the future of the planet itself.

We, in alignment with our consciences and our reasoning, declare ourselves in rebellion against our Government and the corrupted, inept institutions that threaten our future.

The wilful complicity displayed by our government has shattered meaningful democracy and cast aside the common interest in favour of short-term gain and private profits.

When Government and the law fail to provide any assurance of adequate protection, as well as security for its people’s well-being and the nation’s future, it becomes the right of its citizens to seek redress in order to restore dutiful democracy and to secure the solutions needed to avert catastrophe and protect the future. It becomes not only our right, it becomes our sacred duty to rebel.We hereby declare the bonds of the social contract to be null and void, which the government has rendered invalid by its continuing failure to act appropriately. We call upon every principled and peaceful citizen to rise with us.

We demand to be heard, to apply informed solutions to these ecological crises and to create a national assembly by which to initiate those solutions needed to change our present cataclysmic course.

We refuse to bequeath a dying planet to future generations by failing to act now.

We act in peace, with ferocious love of these lands in our hearts. We act on behalf of life.

Related CIIC articles and results:

Climate

Fridays for Future


We’ve had 30 years of pep talking and selling positive ideas and I’m sorry but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now. They haven’t.

And yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then hope will come. Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.

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Economics

Schumacher Center for a new economics


Our mission is to envision a just and sustainable global economy; apply the concepts locally; then share the results for broad replication.

The essay “Buddhist Economics” was first published in Asia: A Handbook, edited by Guy Wint, published by Anthony Blond Ltd., London, 1966. In 1973 it was collected with other essays by Ernest Friedrich Schumacher in Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered. The book went on to be translated into 27 different languages and in 1995 was named by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the hundred most influential books written after World War II.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics received requests from around the world to reprint “Buddhist Economics,” Fritz Schumacher’s classic essay, which is widely understood as a call for an economics of peace. Mrs. Vreni Schumacher, who holds the copyright to her late husband’s works, kindly extended permission to the Schumacher Center to make the essay available electronically along with its multiple translations.

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Institutions

The Cultural Evolution Society


The Cultural Evolution Society is a professional scientific society that advances the theory and practice of cultural evolutionary studies. Our goal is to build capacity for researchers, educators, and practitioners to coordinate efforts.

Why a new society?

Our capacity for culture stems from our ability to receive, process, integrate, and transmit information across generations. The study of human culture and cultural change has made great strides during the last few decades in fields such as anthropology, computer science, evolutionary biology, neurobiology, psychology, and sociology. A great deal of progress has been made in parallel with the study of animal behavior in primate studies, ethology more broadly, and the various ecological sciences. Yet, the study of cultural change as an evolutionary process, similar to genetic evolution but with its own inheritance mechanisms, is only now becoming a central area of scientific inquiry that spans these disciplines and holds much potential for academic integration.

Outside the Ivory Tower, all public policies attempt to accomplish cultural change in a practical sense to reach their various objectives, yet they rarely draw upon an explicit scientific theory of cultural change. A new society is needed to catalyze the study of cultural change from a modern evolutionary perspective, both inside and outside the Ivory Tower.

The Cultural Evolution Society supports evolutionary approaches to culture in humans and other animals. The society welcomes all who share this fundamental interest, including in the pursuit of basic research, teaching, or applied work. We are committed to fostering an integrative interdisciplinary community spanning traditional academic boundaries from across the social, psychological, and biological sciences, and including archaeology, computer science, economics, history, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy and religious studies. We also welcome practitioners from applied fields such as medicine and public health, psychiatry, community development, international relations, the agricultural sciences, and the sciences of past and present environmental change.

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Prosocial World – The science of working better together


PROSOCIAL is informed by three areas of science. The idea that groups require core design principles to function well is inspired by the work of Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012), a political scientist who studied groups that attempt to manage resources such as fields, forests, fisheries, and water for irrigation.

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Mental health

Autistic Collaboration


Members of the autism rights movement adopt a position of neurodiversity that recognises autistic traits as natural variations of cognition, motivations, and patterns of behaviour within the human species, and a liberation from the socially constructed pathology paradigm.

Our culture is sick. We don’t even have a good language to talk about diseases of society. Instead our society cultivates a language for describing ways in which individuals are “deficient” and “deserve to be rejected”. “Treating” individuals is only addressing symptoms and not any of the root causes.

Autistic Collaboration is a community that welcomes all individuals and groups who fully appreciate the value of neurodiversity. Our website acts as a hub for mutual support, and encourages neurodivergent individuals and ventures to connect and establish long-term collaborations.

One of the persistent negative stereotypes is that we are poor at collaboration. The Autistic Collaboration community demonstrates the opposite. Collaboration can take many forms, and different people have different needs and preferences. Autistic people learn and play differently, and only have a limited if any interest in competitive social games. We communicate and enjoy ourselves by sharing information and knowledge, and not by negotiating social status.

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The future

The transformation of the living planet that lies ahead will significantly alter the way we live and organise our lives. It is up to all of us to use this opportunity to collaborate on the development of human scale niches that fit our abilities and that meet the needs of future generations.

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