A 48 hours recipe for suicide

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Recently, I had the opportunity to read this article published on the Qetema website. I found it both interesting and unnerving, as it clearly defines one of the persisting problems with “the RBE spectrum”. I struggled with myself regarding whether or not I should reply to the article in question – but have decided positively so after voicing my concerns with the young people I have talked with inside the Qetema group. They asked me to write this article, and since I’ve already criticised the notion that Greece could become “the world’s first RBE nation”, I thought it would be fair to provide a more elaborate and formal criticism of the idea.

The Short notes (TL;DR)

On Resource Based Economics

~ We do not know whether a RBE would work or not.

~ Many RBE followers seem to believe that their proposed system is a sort of console cheat mode for economics.

~ RBE;ism ultimately bears an uncanny resemblance to pre-marxian forms of communism.

On Greece

~ For many reasons, Greece is ill-suited to become a Resource Based Economy.

~ For many reasons, turning a country into a RBE in 48 hours is insane.

~ Examples of autarkies

On Resource Based Economics

the-planet-is-sick-but-we-have-the-cure-a-resource-based-economy

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability does not and have never identified itself as an organisation promoting what Jacque Fresco coined as a “Resource Based Economy” (RBE). What our goal is, is to investigate the opportunities for how to establish sustainable management of the Earth’s resources, and we are curious on the long-term prospects for the application of a transition to post-monetary socio-economic systems. You can read about our research and transitioning proposals here.

The main difference between us and the majority of the organisations promoting what they call “RBE”, is that we remain very skeptical of any claims and want everything to be measured, verified, applied, tested and criticised. Many of the organisations promoting the RBE concept are however claiming that the world can be switched to a RBE almost instantaneously and with little to none negative effects.

Also, a RBE would not only solve all sustainability problems and social problems, but would prevent most accidents from happen, eliminate most diseases, make most people happy and create an abundance for everyone, so high that resources almost wouldn’t have to be measured.

Much of this heralds from Mr. Fresco himself, who generally promotes his concept through focusing on the many claimed positive effects of a post-transition society. It should be noted that Fresco – before he promoted the Resource Based Economy concept – pioneered a concept called Sociocyberneering, and there he used more technical and narrow terms (which I personally find more agreeable since it makes it easier to understand what his organisation wanted to achieve, but which I understand do not serve to attract as many followers).

What then is a RBE?

If you ask a dozen or so RBE followers, you will know less of what a RBE is than before you asked. You will probably hear

The Venus Project

The Venus Project

about it being “the right thing since the Earth belongs to everyone, not a select few”, and be presented Gimp-rendered image files with quotes by old Native American chieftains. You will hear about Tesla and free energy from vacuum. You may hear of spirituality and Yoga. You may hear of living in communes and veganism, and of banking conspiracies. You may even hear that Jesus did not exist and that RBE is a return to the faith in the pagan mother goddess. You may hear of the flower of life, of promoting arts and poetry and culture.

However, one thing which soon comes clear when it comes to RBE followers (who mostly are young people with idealistically glowing eyes), is that they truly view the RBE concept as a manifestation of everything that is good, righteous and expresses their identity. RBE can be three different things to three different indivduals, but needless to say it will solve all the problems of the Earth, all injustices and do away with them within a few months (Jacque Fresco said something akin to a decade in his Stockholm lecture).

So the main issue is, what does Jacque Fresco claim that a RBE is?

The answer can be shortly summarised as: A computer-administered planned economy.

The system would work in a manner that there is a global computerised system that monitors the total amount of resources on Earth. From that, Fresco assumes that there would be more than enough resources for everyone to live like a millionaire today (surveys by organisations such as the Club of Rome, the Footprint Network and other environmental organisations beg to differ), and that all that is lacking is sufficient planning. The Venus Project has to my knowledge never conducted a planetary survey, which makes me curious on how they have established that the level of resources is sufficient to establish a RBE.

Needless to say, the EOS agrees with TVP that a global planetary survey of resources is necessary, but we believe the way in which TVP messages their concept has created several unintended problems. By focusing on attractive 1950’s style retrofuturism and on inventions rather than the surveys and the physical information, TVP has ensured that they will not for the foreseeable future be accepted in academia. On the other hand, they (and TZM, which in many ways are making themselves even more problematic) gain followers within the precariat – young people from developed nations or from middle class background who have a trouble entering the more and more perilous and uncertain environment of the labour market. The RBE concept provides escapism and a vision of an alternative world.

In many ways, the RBE movement cluster is a cybernetic-age equivalent of the Utopian Socialist movement of the first half of the 19th century. The similarities are too many for it to be a co-incidence, and can be listed below here:

* An emphasis on the vision of a society where all problems are solved.

* A belief in philosopher kings (Tesla posthumously, a cult of personality around leading RBE figures).

* A mixture between pseudo-scientism (a fetischisation of science) and beliefs in alternative science (while Fresco has never claimed to support free energy, PJ Merola of The Zeitgeist Movement has purged high-ranking TZM members who’ve contested alternative cancer treatments).

* A willingness to move away from established society and form communes.

* An unwillingness to organise stable movements or commit full-heartedly to the projects, inside emphasising liquid organisation and positive emotions.

* A belief in that RBE:ism is a recipe to create a society where all ills are immediately cured, and that we under a RBE could both live in an earthly paradise but also provide everyone with basically everything they want.

With this, I am not saying that RBE:ism as a concept is doomed, but that these six features inside the RBE movement are the main things that hampers it and virtually ensures that it continues to see much noise but little actual activity. An emphasis on positive emotions, arrogance and the deification of individuals serves to limit the scope of followers and make them ineffectual.

Greece

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If you have read the article published on Qetema detailing Greece, they claim that Greece has a third choice apart from the knife and the gun seen in the picture above, and that is to switch towards a post-monetary system immediately, claiming that any adverse effects will be smaller than the false choice exemplified. This would mean that Greece totally would forego money and instead move towards a RBE where all resources are administered directly and managed in a rational scientific manner. The author of said article claims that this would create a better life for the Greek people and also showcase exactly how well a RBE would work.

I would counter these claims by pointing out the main problems here below, starting with a historical argument, moving towards a structural one and finishing with providing examples of economies with roughly the same level of natural resources as modern-day Greece, which either by ideological reasons or by economic reality have undergone a transition towards an autarchic, self-sustainable management of their resources.

Greek History for the last 3000 years

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The earliest civilizations emerged around the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Bronze Age, Crete was a centre of trade and commerce in the Mediterranean, providing a hub where resources could be traded. In many ways, civilizations such as Crete, Egypt and the Sumerian states where resource-based economies, in that food and raw material management was centrally planned by theocratic governments. However, due to human overexploitation of fragile East Mediterranean eco-systems and probably natural disasters as well, a collapse occurred during the end of the Bronze Age, leading to depopulation and a massive loss of complexity.

The Greeks did eventually recover enough to create the civilization of Classical Greece. This recovery did not occur because that Greece as a region recovered economically. It was largely deforested, with eroding soils and unable to feed its own population (which for obvious reasons was smaller than today’s Greek population). Thence, from the 8th century BCE and onward to Alexander the Great, the Greeks colonised the shores of the Mediterranean sea, competing with the Phoenician trade networks and acted as middlemen between the various cultures populating the coastlines. If the Greeks had been land-bound and utilised their own resources, their population would have shrunk, and we would today not have known of Athenian philosophy and culture.

During the 15th century, Greece was overrun by the Ottoman Empire, and was ruthlessly exploited. The Greek cities turned into villages, the peninsula was plagued both by tax collectors and highwaymen (who were considered, and often were to an extent, Greek patriots fighting for the liberty of the Greek farmers, reduced to serfs under Turkish rule).

When Greece emerged as an independent nation in 1830, it found itself with a very poor economy and little in terms of infrastructure. The country almost immediately went bankcrupt, and has suffered several more defaults during the relatively short history since the Battle of Navarino guaranteed Greek independence. Left on its own and without any externa support, modern-day Greece would have resembled neighbouring Albania in wealth. What guaranteed that Greece would develop into the 40th largest or so economy of the world was largely the interests first of Great Britain and France, which saw the geostrategically important position of Greece visavi Turkey and Russia, and then of the United States, which largely subsidised Greece during the Cold War.

While Greece undoubtly has resources, it does not have enough resources to supply its current population within its borders. The article claims that the oceans, in this case the Aegean, contains “abundant resources”. The truth is that the eco-systems of the sea are on their way to collapse faster than the eco-systems on land, and most of them are in a state of terminal decay. Now the article writers can claim that Greece can supply itself in terms of aquaponics, kelp farms and solar energy, but to create such facilities require technology and knowledge which would make Greece dependent upon trade, and thus exporting the food they have to obtain technology. Otherwise, they would have to produce the technology internally, but that would reduce their ability to produce food which is needed to sustain the population (I advise the RBE:rs to play the excellent text-based game Stalin’s Dilemma).

RBE if applied on a national level.

If a RBE would be applied on a national level, it would mean that all food production, industrial production and infrastructure would have to be centrally managed, at least during the transitional time. Since Greece lacks the computational power to move towards a cybernated system, that would mean that the current Greek bureaucracy (and the Greek political leaders) will be tasked with managing the economy and making decisions on guesstimates. This would create bottlenecks of inefficiency and also mean that a lot of people will lose the control and/or ownership of resources – leading either to emigration or to political resistance.

Also, Greece is very much a service-based economy (tourism), which is not accounted for (or as much needed) in a RBE. Therefore, a large part of the Greek economy will cease to exist.

Current examples.

cuba cultural tours

There are currently several economies of the world which to a lesser or larger degree are managing their national economies according to principles where they measure resources and needs, and where the state rather than taxing off the population are making their revenue by exporting resources.

The two best examples of the current day world are North Korea and Cuba. I will focus on Cuba, since North Korea is largely directed towards using their resources to feed a bloated conventional military force, thus neglecting food production (in a country already ill-suited to produce food) and thus causing repeated famines.

It could be said that Cuba, on the other hand, is not aiming to embargo itself, but have partially been victimised by a recently lifted embargo by the United States. On the other hand, many aspects of the Cuban economy are not functioning overtly well, and the country lacks access to spare parts and modern technology. On the other hand, however, Cuba is today self-sustaining when it comes to food production, though ordinary Cubans do not experience an abundance of food.

If a Greek transition towards an autarchic economy with focus on self-sustaining food production is established, and we say that it is “successful” in regards with providing people with food, housing, power, medicine and other necessities, it would most likely resemble Cuba – which has a living standard that is considerably lower than modern Greece (even post-crisis), but on the other hand offers people more social security (on a considerably lower level).

Summary

The problem with RBE:ism

The problem with RBE:ism

It is theoretically possible to create a cybernated society managing its own resources within a limited geograhic territory on the planet. However, claiming that a “RBE” can violate the laws of physics and be applied with the same results in Greece as in the United States is populism at best and delusions at worst. Countries are of different size, have different environmental and geographic characteristics. It can be claimed that the larger a country is, the more educated its population is, and the smaller it is, the more resources would be available for every citizen.

That of course ignores the fundamental truth that we – as humans – cannot separate our countries from the planet. We are all into this together, and we all must transition together.

However, the EOS strongly discourages any at all attempt to convert a state into a cybernated economy tomorrow.

Firstly, we have not tested cybernated economics on any grand scale yet, or be able to attest to the positive and adverse effects of the implementation.

Secondly, we believe that the best road towards transition is an organic one, characterised by the emergence of holonic networks that share their successes and failures according to Open Source-principles and with a broad variety of different methodologies that allow us to access why experiments succeed and fail.

The RBE:ists currently are generally delving into a state where they choose to ignore relevant studies regarding history, the world’s resource base and problems encountered in transitions and with human reactions, instead preferring to draw a blank slate over all our experiences and listen to the encouraging words of gurus and visionaries.

It is my conviction as one of the founders of EOS and the organisation’s current director that our road must be one where the burden of proof lies on our shoulders that our transition models work, that we must meticulously test our alternatives on local settings and with computer simulations, that we must seek and find compromises and that the best road forward is one that is inclusive but also transparent and firmly rooted in empirical science.

Currently, RBE:ism is sorely lacking in all these regards, and that is but one of the reasons why we do not call ourselves a RBE:ist movement.

The debate on human nature II; Human Nature in Politics

paleolithic-hunter-gatherers

By Ben Wilson

Causality and human understanding

Imagine twenty thousand years ago, leading a hunting party.

Where regular hunting spots are deserted, because the animals have moved on. A spirit has put a curse on the tribe. Desperately the shaman decides to consult the ancestors by throwing an animal bone into the camp fire. Interpreting the cracks, it leads the hunting party to a previously unexplored location. The hunting is good there and the bone reading technique is used to point to new hunting locations and it consistently works, building a relationship between man and spirits.

Fast forward twenty thousand years, we could cynically point at the narrative that our ancestors created and laugh. However a technique was devised to point them into a new direction, breaking routine behaviours. Having this technique green lit and supported by part of their cultural narrative gave the hunting party a reason and the confidence to use the technique.

If you debated against your incredibly great ancestor, you would be hard pressed if you used methodological or scientific debates. The bone technique does actually work, however the reason why is why you would disagree. You would argue about the random pattern of the bone pointing humans into areas they had not hunted. Whilst your ancestor and scoff saying it was the doing of the ancestors.

Neither fish or bird…

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Now let’s brings this to the modern era. Human nature is a common catch all term and the definition I would understand it as is common traits, thoughts and behaviours that all humans have regardless of culture.

It’s an interesting term and should indicate a level of fraternity between all people. There is some evidence for universal traits, such as universal body language and facial expressions demonstrated by the work of Paul Ekman. Linguistic structures are found to all follow similar structures, and a child learns language just as well being placed in any culture, demonstrated by Noam Chomsky and his less famous colleagues. However these things aren’t what the term human nature is used for.

Anecdotally “human nature” is more used as a nihilistic term to refer to an undesirable behaviour conducted by (surprise) another human being. It can also be attached to greed, betrayal, lust and general pursuit of hedonistic things. People supporting the current system of global capitalism and corporatism, use “human nature” as a rhetoric to explain the flaws of the system.

People against the current status quo will explain these flaws are behaviours created by the system. So now the nature vs nurture debate has now become a structure for a political debate.

However like a lot of contradicting narratives, the answers lies in between. For the Nature argument, environmental factors can change or suppress genes. Genetics is an ever changing field with the wealth of information coded in our DNA being shown to be more and more complex than one simple gene. So we are born with some individual differences but they are not as distinguished and noticeable as many people think about genetics. In terms of the nurture debate, animals, humans of varying intelligences and culture all respond to behavioural conditioning. All animals needing to maximise behaviours that give them the most rewards. However Jaques Fresco and some others have reduced the nature debate by removing any kind of emotional or mental rewards for behaviour. Behaviourism as a discipline has been mature enough that Humans (and some great apes) have needs than the purely material.

So both nature and nurture as a political narrative could reduce us into two different variations of meat robot. A collection of chemicals that acts only to reproduce, or an animal with no cognition pushing a lever for a reward. We must transcend these arguments, acknowledge that the human condition is mostly positive, rewarding and an experience we appreciate to live with. But it is not a black and white experience, which can be scary and existential. Once we stare this in the face, we can consider a new type of society and governance. Since “human nature” should scare us into accepting a status quo. Flaws will always appear in system, however identifying a situation and adapting it, is just as human as adapting to a situation.

Buntstifte

Ben Wilson is a young support worker from Britain who has studied Psychology, is interested in Zen Buddhism, fairness, anthropology and finding ways to make people happy.

The debate on human nature I, the RBE movements, science and ideology

By Enrique Lescure

The discussion on human nature

Fresco

Jacque Fresco (whom I presuppose you all know about) is basing his arguments for the design for The Venus Project, on his claim that it is scientifically proven that human beings are blank slates that are adapting to their environments, and that heritage and genetics play no role.

His main argument is that human beings behave “capitalistically” in a capitalist society, and will automatically adjust to what he terms a “Resource Based Economy” (RBE) on the basis of this purported scientific truth.

This claim is often the first one that representatives or supporters of various RBE movements are using against people who question whether or not a transition to an entirely untested system is a wise idea.

Sadly, the scientific foundations for this argument are very shaky, and in its pure form, the argument is simply flawed. I will devote this article not on what human nature is, but on the debate on human nature and its relations to science, ideology and human behaviour, in order to try to explain why Jacque Fresco and other RBE followers are using this argument to sell The Venus Project.

What science is, and is not

Science

Often, when laypersons meet at pubs, private places or parks to discuss, and the topic is on some subject they’ve perhaps heard on the radio or seen on Youtube, they often talk about that “the scientists have said that…”, or “that is not true, because the scientists…”

Other people, often belonging to the minority of people susceptible to conspiracy thinking, believe that the scientists are out to destroy society, or “fabricate global warming”, that there is a nefarious Agenda 21 (which is almost unrecognisable from the real Agenda 21) which aims to depopulate Earth in order to save it.

No matter if you view “the scientists” as some sort of revered final authority which stands above the understanding of “ordinary commoners”, or see them as a nefarious cabal intending to upheaval and mischief, you see yourself as separate from them, and them as having access to knowledge and information which you could never hope to attain.

That is not what science is.

Science is from the beginning two different methodologies combined with documentation and archiving. The two methodologies (there are more, but these two are the main ones that are utilised), empiricism and rationalism.

Empiricism is basically experience-based learning, where scientists tests their hypotheses by for example mixing two or more elements or conducting testing under controlled conditions. Rationalism is a process whereby the possible reasons for the outcomes of the experiments should be weighed against one another until those proven less likely are scrapped.

In our modern age, the ideal is that this entire process should be monitored, by those involved writing their hypotheses, methodologies, results and conclusions and subject it to peer review. The ideal is that the experiments should be repeatable and that even a scientist with opposing views would find the same results as the first scientist.

Of course, pride, research grants, professor positions and politics inside faculties are playing a role, and there have been cases of fraud and academic corruption. Yet that is not primarily the fault of the process, but rather a testament to the kind of system that the process is occurring within. It is also a testament to the human tendency to factionalise, especially amongst dominant males.

This however can be corrected, as science – unlike many religions and ideologies – is self-correcting. Ambitious scientists are welcome to challenge established wisdom and question old beliefs, and in this way our understanding of the world is improved.

How political and religious movements are (mis)using science

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During the late 19th century, the European colonial powers divided the continent of Africa between themselves, subjecting the indigenous nations of brutal exploitation and oppression. However, to admit that for the home audience (and possibly for oneself, as an exploiter) would create a psychological scar. Thus, the imperialists devised for themselves and for the public arguments for why they “ought” to “civilize” Africa.

One of the obvious arguments was that the inhabitants had not received Christ yet, and therefore it was pivotal to send missionaires to Africa to bring “the ignorant savages” into the fold of “Christian Civilization”.

A perhaps quite unexpected argument, which however reminds a bit of the arguments for NATO-led military interventions usually made at our contemporary era, was to “protect” the peoples of Subsaharan Africa from Arab slavers, selling slaves to the markets of the Ottoman Empire.

The nastiest – and in a dark way the most “honest” – answer why, was provided by ideologists and by scientists of that era who acted like ideologists. They were basing their theories on Charles Darwin’s theories, written in his two books The Origin of Species and Descent of Man, and chose to interpret the books in such a manner that they believed there was some kind of evolutionary struggle between the “inferior” and “superior” races of mankind.

According to this view, the Europeans had “the right” to impose colonial control upon Africa, because the European states were stronger than the African kingdoms and had superior weapons. This kind of motivation had little that differed it from the motivations found on steles in Mesopotamia, raised by the kings of the cruel Assyrian Empire. But the darwinian explanation became popular amongst intellectual circles in Europe and the Americas because it was “scientifically based” and had support from large parts of the scientific establishment.

Herbert Spencer took this cruel ideology masked as science, and applied it on the class issues in Europe at the time. Arguing against social reforms and social justice, he claimed that those who were poor were sentenced to poverty not by an unjust political system but by their “evolutionary inferiority” (genetics were not known at that time). Thus, that some people died very young because of lethal working conditions and were subjected to starving and homelessness was none other’s fault than themselves, for having been born with such “inferior bodies and minds”.

This argument has – by the way – made a reappearance in the Anglo-Saxon world, as has the argument that some races are intellectually inferior. This has been contested however.

On the progressive side, similar sweeping scientific claims have been made about for example gender relations issues and LGBT issues. While those who seek to preserve existing hierarchies delve into science in order to justify social injustices, progressives delve into science to fight social injustices.

The first example of this kind of use of science is the theory – supported by a lot of feminist researchers – that all the differences between the sexes can be attributable to patriarchy and to the traditional cultural gender norms that women and men have been forced to live under, and that nothing – nothing – is affected by human biology. From this follows that society should actively intervene in order to subvert these norms, abolish the genders as social constructs and allow all human beings to liberate themselves and define their own identity independent from the norms and expectations from society, an ideological goal which I find as noble as a RBE.

The second theory that is usually presented by progressives is that humans are born with sexual preferences, and therefore people have the right to express their sexual orientation by entering relationships with other grown-up adults. It is understandable that LGBT activists are using this defence in order to try to make a homophobic society tolerate the presence of people with non-hetero orientations.

What is wrong with using science like this?

IntrospectionWhen science is used to motivate political agendas, it can increasingly fall under the risk of being reduced to a dogma, especially if the political agenda happens to be dominant within an institution. Scientists who have dissenting theories or who’s academic honesty has led them into other conclusions can then be subjected to peer pressure and be marginalised within academia. A science which can hardly be questioned from within leaps the risk of turning into ideology – an ideology which motivates itself not by the merits and consistency of its values but by claiming the reverence of being scientific, while demanding to not be questioned out of ideological concerns.

If we take our progressive examples, feminism would not fall to pieces if it is proven that what we within human societies have seen as gender-specific behaviours are partially based on biological mechanisms such as hormones affecting the amygdala, since it does not follow that it then would mean that women must conform to patriarchal norms or that we should not question such norms any more.

And does it follow that we would have the right to oppress LGBT people if it was shown that sexual orientations can develop by a mixture of genetic conditions, choice and environmental factors? I don’t believe that, and I believe that the argument that “we have to accept LGBT people because they are born that way” deprives human beings from the power of their own destinies, and also indirectly implies that society would be perfectly within that right if they weren’t “born that way”.

Summa summarum…

bias

Rightist activists tend to argue that humans are entirely driven by genes and biology, and are therefore inherently unequal, and that “capitalism is in human nature”. All gender behaviour differences are genetic, but homosexuality is a free choice and “gays should straighten up”. All other economic systems than free market capitalism are bound to fail due to “the laws of nature”, and races are unequal…

Leftist activists on the other hand, tend to argue that humans are more driven by environment than genes, that the first human societies were egalitarian, and that humans have the freedom to choose how to form their communities. Gender behaviour differences are instituted through Patriarchy, sexual orientations are something that humans are born with, and socialism lies much more in human nature than capitalism. Races do not exist…

Yes I admit it, these two descriptions of two activists are stereotypical, and probably neither one is existing in pure form as an ideological activist in the real world. But these kinds of supposedly “scientific” arguments used with the faint hope of ending debates that doesn’t change the mind of anyone partaking (especially not between two people) have cropped up in discussions numerous times, until people almost repeat them automatically.

The point is, when you use science primarily as a mean to support your political agenda, you are not in fact advancing your political agenda (you are giving it crutches which it probably doesn’t need), and you are turning science into a dogma. The academic world is probably fraught with bias already, but fighting bias with bias is never a good idea, and will inevitably create such monstrosities as Biblical Archeology and Intelligent Design, “sciences” entirely devoted to spreading agendas.

Science is not about believing what you want to believe, but to boldly follow evidence, wherever it might lead you. And yes, established scientists since long ago has often been bad on that, and allowed their bias and political opinions to affect their work. They are only human after all.

How to correctly use science

Milky wayYou have values and sentiments, right? You want the society to progress in a specific direction, and are highly motivated. Perhaps you are even ascribing to a consistent ideology. Society is not working so well as it could, and you are ready to struggle to move it into a direction that you’ll view as more beneficial for humanity and/or the environment.

What you should do is that you should educate yourself, and use information available and judge it critically, no matter if you agree with it or not. If you get into a position of responsibility, science is of great aid since it tells which routes are more possible and which routes are less. You do not need to change your values if established science would find out something less flattering about your species, the environment or social structures, instead you should use that new knowledge as a way to better be able to realise your values in reality. That is not possible if you decide to use the scientific texts you agree with as dogma.

The Soviet Union collapsed not because of war, but largely because its academia and research was heavily restricted by Marxist-Leninist dogma, which together with the police state created an unwillingness to question the collective farms, the static prices or the command economy. The Islamic world stagnated largely because the Ash’ari theological school (which stressed the absolute predetermination by God’s will of everything that happens) triumphed over the Mu’tazilites and their more open interpretations of scripture. If the Mu’tazilites had won that struggle, it wouldn’t be inconceivable that the Islamic world could have pioneered the scientific revolution. Greek science stagnated during the Roman Era, largely because Plato and Aristotle were treated as authorities which could not be questioned by the literate classes.

So use science as a map, but not as a guiding light for your heart. Use it as a tool to achieve a goal. But do not for all what matters in your mind mix up the tool itself with the goal in your heart.

Reality? What reality?

Cosmos

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Ultimately, there are two constants in the existence of sapient life: The self and the exterior of the self. We can refer to “the self” as “the mind”, while everything exterior of the self (from unconscious bodily functions to far away galaxies) can be referred to as “reality”.

Our body interconnects our minds with reality, through sensory stimulus and the need for nutrition. However, we are not born (or arguably able) to understand what reality is. It can have something to do with us being evolved not for understanding the mysteries of the Cosmos, but rather for surviving and procreating on the African plains.

Anyway, here we are, operating a civilization that we ultimately are ill-equipped to understand by virtue of our biology, and trying to make sense of the complex world we are finding ourselves in.

There are several tools for understanding reality, but the two most utilised have been Mythos and Logos.

Mythos is a way of ascertaining reality by forming a comprehensive world-view which often is normative, meaning that it is focused on mending the gap between the material and moral realities, and to establish a meaning with life. We won’t really focus on Mythos for this article, but preoccupy ourselves with various ways of understanding Logos, and of the arguably damaging effects of neo-subjectivist ideas.

I am talking, to an extent, about the discourse of the conflict between hermeneutics and positivism, and about what separates The Earth Organisation for Sustainability from The Venus Project and many of the “RBE Organisations” which have plopped up during the last few years.

What is science?

Most human beings are to an extent employing science when they determine which way is the best way. It can be everything from cooking, building treehouses and gardening, to arranging furniture and making music together with your friends. In short, science is not in itself complicated.

Science is to make judgements out of experience and test results, rather than from opinions, biases or authority, and then be open for that new and improved information can be available, rather than to prefer the old information.

Of course, it should be stated that scientific fields are not testing randomly, but are building on what previous generations have made and are employing mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering principles and various research methods, as well as peer reviews and standardised reporting techniques to establish a transparent and secure process for attaining new knowledge and be able to apply it within various areas.

The foundation

For science to work, there must be several conditions met. Experiments must be falsifiable, meaning that they must be possible to conduct and repeat under controlled conditions, and that they must be open for criticism based on science. Moreover, the experiments must be possible to repeat by researchers who have vastly different biases, and yet yield the same results. Also, the process must be open for examinations by other experts in the same field.

Moreover, if there are several possible conflicting interpretations for events, then the usual manner in which how to proceed has been to first look at the most simple explanations, rather than to move to wildly divergent scenarios.

Positivism

The traditional way of studying natural sciences (or “hard science”) has been to follow this process and learn new experiences from it. Positivism, as the underlying “scientistic” norm has been referred to, have several weaknesses, which have been addressed both amongst adherents to positivism and to critics, usually from the New Left academic environment, who formulated different types of scientific methodologies (one of which is Hermeneutics, which is very questionable itself as a methodology).

What I however want to criticise with the RBE movements is not Hermeneutics, since the RBE movements seem to originate from a idiosyncratic fusion of youth disillusionment, New Age, Conspiracism and The Venus Project rather than from New Left Academia.

The problems with the RBE Cosmology

Free_Energy_Orgones

I would argue that the biggest enemy currently of the RBE movement is the RBE movement itself, or rather the over-enthusiastic followers of RBE concepts, who seem to understand science as a substitute for religion. Let me explain my position with this illustrative image from above.

While I do not doubt that most RBE followers genuinely want to help the world, there is a problem which I have spotted amongst many vocal RBE followers, and that is their ignorance of the scientific method, as well as (even more sadly) a disinterest in the scientific process.

I have seen RBE followers share Wilhelm Reich, Nassim Haramein, Drunvalo Melchizedek, David Icke and other conspiracy theorists uncritically, and whenever such posts are erased from the EOS Facebook group, we are accused of censoring information and of being authoritarian. I have seen RBE followers being drawn into anarcho-primitivist groups, new age groups and antisemitic conspiracy groups.

It can almost seem like when the foundations of reality are changed, everything passes, and people stop using their critical faculties to disseminate information.

But this does not only pass for false information. It is troubling as well when it passes for true information or information that has a scientific basis.

I would be very worried if tomorrow EOS would get 200 new followers, who all would profess a nearly religious faith in the teachings of our movement, and the current EOS director (no offence, Dr. Wallace 😉 ). Equally troubling it is when people profess blind faith in Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking or any other contemporary figure within mainstream science.

To some extent, a lot of people have shown a predisposition for a need to believe in something.

Anyway, often times, we have heard that the reason that we do not work together with some specific other RBE associations (for example, The Venus Project), is that we are petty and have “big egos”. The people framing such criticisms seem to either be surprised by our reply or ignore it, but our reply is the following:

We cannot know whether or not a RBE is working before testing out the principles locally.”

Jacque Fresco himself is evidently a positivist, at least to the point where he affirms that the scientific method is the foundation for TVP. However, there are several problems with TVP, firstly that Jacque has achieved a guru-like status within the organisation, and secondly that there are no other scientists or engineers apart from Jacque within TVP, and also that most of the followers of TVP seem to have this nearly religious belief that a RBE certainly will solve every problem with everything imaginable, and that all issues of scarcity will be removed permanently (Limits of Growth beg to differ).

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but beware that enthusiasm is always based on a bias. One of the reasons why we in the EOS are trying to break our own design by various simulations and tests, is that the design itself is of less importance than whether or not it can contribute positively to the future of the planet and to sustainability. We need to learn to distance ourselves from our emotional entanglements and behave like scientists.

We need to understand the scientific process.

There have been many problems with science, including elitism, dependency on multinational corporations, dependency on governments, biases connected to prejudices about social groups and a disturbing homogenity of the composition of the science corps. These issues are not addressed by throwing out mainstream science and replacing it with a wild subjectivism where people “put their faith” in various gurus.

These issues can only be addressed by teaching people the foundations of the scientific method from an early age, and learn children how to apply science themselves.

The Way Ahead

Galaxy

“If fear should win our hearts
Our light will have long diminished
Before it reaches the farthest star” ~ Ronan Harris, VNV Nation

My name is Enrique Lescure, and I am a board member of the Earth Organisation for Sustainability – EOS, and has been active within the network since 2007.Energy Accounting, Earth Organisation for Sustainability, EOS

Maybe it could be seen as pretentious to say that we – we who are alive today – perhaps are the most important generation that has lived during the era of humanity on Earth. That the decisions that we make – or not – during our lifetime, will affect life on Earth during hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions of years?

Our planet has gone through five mass extinctions during its life, the last one caused by a meteor hitting the sea at the Yucátan Peninsula 65 million years ago. It ended the age of the Dinosaurs and led to the rise of the mammals as the dominant terrestrial forms of life.

While I am writing this, almost all eco-systems on our beautiful planet are put under an unfathomable stress. Complex ecosystems are replaced by mono-cultures. Heavy metals, chemicals and particles are poisoning air, water, earth and organisms alike. The rise of CO2 has been caused by emissions of fossil fuels into the atmosphere. The seas are dying. The quality of the soil is being destroyed. If this development continue, it will spiral into a sixth mass extinction event.

I am sure that you who are reading this know about this.

You also probably do know that this is caused by the current civilization that we have created.

The question is: How should we solve this?
Answers are varying. Politicians are speaking of bans, taxes and subsidies. Businesses and scientists are speaking of technical measures. Grassroot organisations are speaking of solving local problem. The complexity of the issues can seem overwhelming.

Though all these issues are really symptoms of a main cause.

What is then that main cause?

The main cause is that we have created an ecologically and socially unsustainable civilization, founded on a debt-based monetary system dependent on exponential growth. Today we are using around 135% of the renewal capacity of the Earth.

We must solve all issues with climate change, sea destruction, heavy metals and mass deaths amongst animal and plant life, and each of these problems present an enormous challenge for all of us.

The main challenge however is to reduce our usage of resources from 135% to below 100%, which means a level where the biosphere can start to recover after decades of exploitation.

I was aware of many of these problems already when I studied at high school.

Thus I started to explore ideas aimed at solving the environmental deficit we are experiencing today. I started to see that the green movement relied too heavily on changing the behavior of the individual, as well as changing details of how the systems are working today. The alternative green forces, anarcho-primitivists, deep-greens and eco-fascists, were on the other hand focusing on misanthropy and on unrealistic visions of a pre-industrial world.

At the end, my search led me to establish contact with students, engineers and researchers from many countries, who shared similar ideas on how we should proceed. Our goal was aimed at creating a realistic, tangible model on how to combine a high-tech civilization with social and ecological sustainability.

Thus we created EOS – the Earth Organization for Sustainability.

EOS was founded as a research- and grassroot network, producing a blueprint for a hypothetical sustainable civilization. This is a (well… relatively) short text called “The Design”, which is describing our ideas.

Our thoughts are the following: We are aiming to create a model for handling the Earth’s resources in a more rational and ecologically sustainable manner. In short, this proposed model is based on a) a continuous survey of the global renewal capacity, b) that all human beings get to own a share of this renewal capacity, c) that they from their share can allocate their resources to what they want to be produced for themselves, d) and that the production is determined by where the consumers are allocating their shares.

In short:

• There is a ceiling that limits how much we can use – the renewal capacity of the Earth.
• All human beings are entitled to an income floor and an income ceiling.
• No products that people are not actively asking for should be produced. This also means a radically lowered amount of working hours.

We are not aiming for a command economy, but for a libertarian, de-centralised and federated system characterised by common communication networks. Neither do we want no growth, as growth in income and living standards under a system as it is proposed by us would be a result of environmentally friendly applications and more efficient ways to utilize resources.

How realistic is our model then?

As a research network, our approach is moving towards applying scientific methodologies on socio-economic systems. Therefore, our goal is to work together with local communities, associations and groups of individuals and test aspects of the design to see how well it works in the real world, to change or scrap what doesn’t work and evolve organically.

Ideally, we aim to also strengthen local communities to increase local resilience and together form a model that can bridge the ecological crisis awaiting us, and help humanity move towards a more evolved and mature civilization.

The most important foundation of our work is that we are striving towards a sustainable world, and that we during our journey are basing our work on ethical methods that strengthen human rights and diversity.

We can all together create a civilization based on sustainability and human creativity, a stable foundation for the values which our descendants one day hopefully will spread beyond the stars.

My question to you is: What should we – humanity – become, and how should we become?