Saturday, 23 January 2010

An optimistic view of Human Nature: The Venus Project or The End of Capitalism

I have recently been debating the ideas behind the Venus Project with a capitalist right-winger from the US on the Dan Carlin message boards. After coming back at me with straw-men and a limited graft of History, I thought I should go deeper into the philosophical foundations such a vision both recognises and requires.  The Venus Project is a conceptual plan for a post-capitalist resource-based economy.  It turned into something of a rant, so I thought I'd share it on here, a bit of optimism to try to balance the negativity all around us...

Post subject: Re: The Venus Project
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:42 pm


Their (Venus Project) whole concept rests upon the adaptability of human nature, the fact that what we see as the self is a cultural construct, al a memetics, something that until recently western thought neglected. It isn't hippy shit, it's a view of human nature shared by Dawkins and Dennett amongst many others.

Their view, one I have come to understand independently, is (very simplistically) that we are a being of both genetic and memetic evolution, hardware/software respectively. Genes denote the ingredients, the potentials, whilst the environment develops this potential. This includes ones memetic make-up, determined by ones course through life: all the ideas, tastes (not sense taste..), beliefs.. everything you learn and imitate, the information input/output.

Our environment is now dominated by memes, by culture. The 'software' is man-made, a menage of prior beliefs. This is scary for some people. It gives rise to thoughts of social engineering. But that's only bad if it's enforced engineering. What memetic evolutionary theory (dawkins) shows, what History shows (Hegel), is that society as a mixing whole has more power in engineering their own collective intelligence than the state. The individual now constructs society, they do not have society forced upon them. This is the trend if you give people freedom. This has only been allowed to happen because capitalism preached freedom for the individual. The state and capitalism were necessary, vital, for the explosion of memetic transmission globally

We can only progress incrementally, lest those less scrupulous gain to clear an advantage.  An evolutionary adaptive system can only proceed with incremental trends in long-term change.  Perhaps when moving between dictatorial, heredital rule and ultimate freedom such exploitative capitalism is inevitable?  It is most certainly not final.  Fukuyama should be ashamed to be considered a Historian of any sort.  Rule number 1: learn from mistakes of the past. 

I am no enemy of capitalism. I am an enemy of the immorality displayed by those who have grown powerful because of it.  Every age, every generation, grows in the world of the old.  This is why youth are idealistic, they are forced to live according to moral codes laid down in the past: nationalism, imperialism, military might.  

What Hegel was witness to was reason as the driving force of History. Why? We are rational beings. Unless one is insane, we follow rational causes. We would not have survived long otherwise. It follows that cause and effect governs, to enough of a degree, our decisions, the course of History. Everyone wants security, safety.

Yet we are still, to various degrees, like animals when it comes to emotion. We fear the unknown. It has ever been thus and governments throughout time immemorial have used this in retaining and expanding their power.

However, we can equally feel empathy toward the known, the relatable, an obvious evolutionary advantage. As capitalism searches for ever more markets, communication technology will be spread to all corners of the globe. In this virtual world, there are no borders (the exceptions proving the rule). As it does so, the unkown becomes the known. Groups, empathy, understanding, solidarity... all will grow as technology becomes ubiquitous. I see it happening everyday. The generational gap in terms of breadth of global empathy of this Internet generation is sizes of magnitude greater than anything before. The West used to hate blacks. Then, the state acted as a force for good, enforcing mixing until enough people made enough black friends and saw enough black culture to come to know them, realise the commonalities instead of listening to the hysteria of narrow-minded people. When we come to know the sweatshop workers, when we begin to relate to the oppressed who suffer know because of the very same historical legacies that engorge us now, will governments again step in do do the right thing? Or will they do what's right for those whom they know most well, those they relate to... capitalists?

What unknowns will be left to hide behind, to suppress the free minds of the many in an effort to maintain the inequality? Such fear-mongering will come to seem evermore irrational; politics and high-finance ever more apart from the realities of every day life.

We are relativistic beings. We judge according to that which we know. 24-hour rolling coverage, native peoples blogging their own stories, individuals connected world-wide, soon to be seamless, intuitive, speech activated connectivity. We will realise that we are all not as different as our current masters believe. With every Haiti there comes a collective reflection, a mental comparison between those mothers and orphans and those men in suits and private planes, both as distant and alien from your own yet one reeking of need and neglect, the other of greed and excess.

This is what they understand at Venus I think, formed not from grandios idealism but from an understanding of cognitive science, from an understanding of global trends and from taking a systems approach to problem solving.

They can do this because for Venus to be possible, it would require slow, gradual acceptance from the people themselves. It is a thought-experiment based upon the notion that as we come to know each other we become more moral. There is no notion of force, no desire for imposition. Listen to the old guy who is the original creative idea behind it: his message that we can be free from notions of prejudice and nonsensical political catch-all's or 'isms is incredibly refreshing.

I refuse to accept that my individuality is derived from the job i do. 80% of work available here in Brighton is sales related. By your token, their individuality is tied to cold-calling. Now that is scary, and imposed upon us simply by necessity and Historical happen-stance.

Oh!, the capacity for individuality when everyone is free to do what they want? To play and write music, create art, play sports, collaborate on whatever projects they wish, a world of creation, not a world of jobs that take a majority of your best waking life just so that you can live. No time, no energy simply for you to be you.

1 comment:

Celestial Elf said...

Great Post :D
Thought you might like my machinima film,
To The Venus Project
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8eYZkAuxsI
Bright Blessings
elf ~