The Industrial Revolutionaries and the Monkey Syndrome

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Since the first human species appeared some 200 000 years ago until the current Anthropocene age, Humankind successfully rode through the millennia on a strategy of group survival. On the way, Human Civilization emerged as the spiritual dimension of group survival strategy that unlocks capabilities of human beings to mutually defend their strategic self-interest through generating civilizational values.

All human history has been projecting onto two basic vectors: the technological advancement which all the time provides us with more efficient and more sophisticated tools to make the things we want, and the societal progression which records the changes we impose on our societal systems.

Humans never stopped improving their life through inventing, but there are periods of time when new technologies disrupt whole sectors of economy and format a new way of life: the Industrial Revolutions. Revolutions are made by people. They are called “revolutionaries”. And industrial revolutions are no exception.

Right now we are amidst the whirlpool of the most exciting one – the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Artificial Intelligence already shatters the foundations of our good old Temple of Philosophy where we have indulged for centuries in the serenity of discussing problems that never had any practical significance; Synthetic Biology and Genomics invaded the very texture of the biological framework of our own lives, and we even started to recklessly mix different self-evolving pieces of living matter with no clear idea about what type of uncontrollable monster could be waiting for us at the end of chain;  and Robotics that were forecasted by the recent Mackenzie report  are marching into the factories  – to take half of our jobs in the next 17 years.

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And this is only the beginning of a new age unfolding.

The billions of people living today on our planet might not understand the details of how exactly deep neural networks work, or how self-driving cars solve traffic circumstances. But human nature has preserved one primitive ability: to feel directly through the skin when imminent danger, no matter how vague, is intensely coming out somewhere very close. And the fact that we do not precisely understand the character of that danger invigorates our feeling of fear and sharpens our preparedness to react.

Humanity is about human prosperity, and human dignity is an imperative value that has to be defended to the last line of fire. Human dignity has three basic existential pillars: life, income and status. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already put them all under attack. Life and security – because in the final end every invention gets applied into weapons build by humans to kill humans. Losing jobs and wage stagnation as a result of automation means not only loss of income: it is also loss of social status and shutting the prospects that were throwing light on the paths leading to your dreams – yours and that of your family.  And when people feel that all three basic pillars of their life are threatened, their behavior can become very unpredictable.

Those existential processes might be present within the motivation of the people who massively voted for Brexit.  And maybe Donald Trump was supported in the election by a silent but very powerful undercurrent of millions of people who feel being left behind and who anticipate that the foundations of their lives are starting to melt away. Shocked by the reality that, contrary to the general presumption of a permanently advancing human society, their life is going to be worse and poorer than the life of their parents, they are getting desperate to the extent to embrace the unpredictable candidate.  And a definitely more serious issue of concern is the analysis of a number of experts who associate radicalization of young people with the absence of visible prospects for a human life that would be normal in the sense of what we considered normal human life just a decade ago. What behavior can we expect next from people who consider themselves disenfranchised?

No matter how thick the walls can be, in the current intensively interconnected world there was no way for the wealthier part of the inequality graph to remain undisturbed by the tectonic movement of social and political strata. Some of them may have lost the comfort of the highly predictable world they were used to inhabit. In initial symptoms of panic they mobilized media resources to attack an elected politician. That was basically wrong, because the reality is that in a democratic system you cannot attack an elected politician, you can only attack those, who supported him. And you cannot have convincing enough arguments against their reasons to do so. This year, even the participants of the traditionally glamorous Davos gathering seemed to not have been prepared for more than quietly uttering the mantras of a liberal order that is fading away. At times they looked like a crowd standing on the seashore and waving farewell to the beautiful departing ship, pretending not to know that this ship will never come back again. A crowd with no clear idea about how the new big ship will be designed and what it would look like. Or is it going to be a ship at all. Yet.

The paradox of this particular moment in history is that the depressive moments of gloom and despair are spreading after it became crystal clear that the exponential technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are in reality bringing unlimited potential for abundance. Renowned futurists and experts, including Peter Diamandis, have no doubt that “Abundance is our Future”.

Leading MIT economist Andrew MacAfee recently stated in an interview:

“We are creating an overall more prosperous world. The pressing question is: How do we share that prosperity?”

The above pressing question is not for the technological club. The members of the technological club have done a great job: For just only 250 years since the First Industrial Revolution, the industrial revolutionaries have elevated our human civilization to the stage where abundance is technically available!

The above pressing question is to the political club. It is the policy makers who have to respond to the new trends determined by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and to design adequate policies that will protect basic human values and human dignity, and will defend the strategic interests of human civilization.

And why isn’t that happening?

The Monkey Syndrome 

“Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

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After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done around here.”

Politically, we are still using the societal technology of the monkeys that emerged some 60 million years ago. Including the Monkey Syndrome which keeps reproducing absurd social patterns, and tribal thinking that enables violent conflicts, inequality, and disregard for human dignity.  And just like the monkeys – all the time this drama goes on without anyone having any idea why.

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So, what takes our policy makers so long to start walking their mile forward in the societal vector?

And, if the industrial revolutionaries are now having their brightest moment of glory, where are now the civilizational revolutionaries to close the gap on the road of our advancing Humankind?

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About lubomir todorov

The years of work and studies I have spent in countries of diverse anthropological, political and cultural realities like Japan, Australia, Russia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Czechia, and my numerous visits across the globe, were abundant in meetings and conversations with not only politicians, government officials and businessmen, but also people of different existential background, ethnicity, education and profession, philosophy and religion, social status and political inclination: aboriginal painters in Australia, US generals, Japanese Buddhist and Shinto priests, Majesties and members of Royal families, Russian scientists, street Mapuche musicians in Chile, British parliamentarians, Indian philosophers, Czech university professors, CEOs of top Japanese corporations, Chinese social sciences researchers, Dutch entrepreneurs - to mention just a few. Over time all this primary data, intertwined with the everyday inflow of information about human activities all over the world and their real-time consequences, were re-assimilated in my mind through the tools of philosophy, international relations, ethics, biology, economics, history and political sciences to gradually constitute a distinct resolution to re-examine my understanding about politics and the nature of human society. Making all the time hard efforts to keep the methodology machine uncontaminated by ideological, political or personal prejudice, I clung to one rule: If you aspire for the beauty of truth, it is only facts and logic that matter. Questioning the viability of human social and political behaviour and the capacity of existing political systems to lead to where people want to be, I believe that sooner than later, in pursue of sustainable prosperity, our humanity will embrace its ultimate imperative of Civilizational Thinking. Human Civilization is the spiritual dimension of homo sapiens group survival strategy that urges humans to mutually defend their strategic self-interest by generating Civilizational Values; and the optimal political environment for that is Universal Future: a global multifaceted platform on which all polities in their ideological, political, national, cultural, ethnic, religious, racial, etc. diversity exist, interrelate and compete with each other on non-violence basis.
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