Preventing Extinction A New Paradigm For Human Existence
Our ancestors have made decisions that have put our race onto a very dangerous path, one that leads to violence, destruction, and ultimately extinction for our race.
We do not have to go down this path.
There are other paths we can take into the future.
This book is about these other paths.
Chapter One Introduction
If someone you love has tuberculosis, you can’t prevent her death by treating the symptoms.
You can give her suppressants to prevent the bloody coughing fits and ice baths to keep her fever from reaching the point of delirium. But the coughing and fevers are not the problem itself; they are only symptoms of the problem. If you want to save her, you need to understand that they really are symptoms, figure out what causes them, and then deal with the underlying problem.
We were born into societies that have incredibly serious problems. At any time, a war could break out and escalate into a nuclear war, destroying us all. Fossil fuel use is altering the composition of our atmosphere, removing billions of tons of oxygen a day and replacing it with heat-absorbing carbon dioxide. Corporations manipulate the governments of the world, creating more and more policy each year; this policy benefits the corporations at the expense of the world and people on it.
We do our best to deal with these problems, tackling them one at a time. We protest the individual wars, we try to remove the current warmonger officials or corporate puppets from positions of power, and we boycott the companies that are doing the most serious damage to the world around us. We deal with these problems one at a time, as if each individual problem is somehow unique, unrelated to anything else that happens, and as if ending that particular of war or destructive act, or getting rid of one more dangerous leader in one of the more than 200 countries of the world, will make a difference.
But we all know these efforts aren’t going to end any of these problems.
Ending one war isn’t going to do anything about the problem of war: we were born into societies that have forces that push toward war with incredible force. Success in ending a specific war doesn’t eliminate these forces: they are still there. These forces will continue to grow stronger until there is another war. We could compare this to the forces pushing the person with infected lungs to cough: you may be able to suppress these forces enough to prevent a specific coughing fit, and may be able to make a coughing fit end sooner than it otherwise would end, but this does nothing about the underlying problem. As long as the infection is in place, the pressure to cough will grow and, eventually, it will be stronger than any preventative measures you can take. Another coughing fit will break out.
War has structural causes. The societies that we have inherited from past generations work in ways that push people to divide the human race into different groups called ‘countries,’ have these groups claim part of the planet belongs to them, and then fight over which of these groups (which ‘country’) is the owner of each mountain, river, island, valley, prairie, and ocean shore of the planet. The individual wars are not isolated events that happen without warning or any apparent cause: we expect them. They are the natural result of the basic structural realities of the world around us.
If we want to really make a difference, we need to be willing to dig into the underlying structures of society, to analyze them, to figure out how they work. We need to find the root cause and deal with it. The same is true for the horrible environmental problems we are facing. The societies we live in have needs that force policymakers to support and encourage destruction using any tools at their disposal. If destruction is not happening at a given time, or if it isn’t happening fast enough to met certain critical needs of the society, the policymakers will do whatever they have to do to make sure destruction comes to exist and increases to the necessary levels. As long as we live in societies that have needs that can be met with destruction, the destruction will continue. No amount of effort dealing with each individual destructive act is going to make any difference.
This may be easier to see with an example: One of the key needs pushing for destructive policies is the need for jobs. In the course of this book, we will look at several different ways that humans can organize themselves into ‘societies.’ We will see that some of these societies work better when production is mechanized and creates large amounts of value with little or no drudgery, toil, or other labor. You will see that societies where this happens are very easy to understand: it makes sense that people would want as much wealth as possible with as little drudgery and toil as possible. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t born into societies that work in this logical way. We were born into societies that are structured in ways that make them NEED a very large amount of work.
Technology cuts off our options for providing jobs in areas that have traditionally provided most jobs over history. Machines can do almost everything needed for production faster, better, and cheaper than human workers. (A single harvesting machine can take in roughly the same amount as 1,000 workers with hand tools; a truck with one driver can haul more than 1,000 bearers with baskets.) The people who make policy know that productive tasks are being mechanized very quickly. This part of the economy (the part related to producing food and other things that humans know we will need over time) is losing jobs and will continue to lose them.
Policymakers also know that destruction is necessarily labor-intensive: new resources must be found; new mines and wells must be designed and built, generally in areas far away from infrastructure, which must be built to facilitate the destruction. The policymakers know that a relatively small subsidy on destruction can induce companies to do things destructively rather than use non-destructive alternatives which don’t require any significant amounts of labor.
Consider energy: we currently burn about 174 billion pounds of fossil fuels each day, mainly to produce electricity and run vehicles. This is such a staggering number that it is hard to imagine it, so let’s put it into perspective: a standard class 8 truck (the largest highway truck in use, commonly called an ‘eighteen wheeler’) has a load capacity of 40,000 pounds. If we put all of the fuel burn in one day into the cargo trailers of a fleet of class 8 trucks, we would need 4.35 million trucks to hold it all. If we put these trucks end to end, the line of trucks would be 50,000 miles long, enough to circle the globe at the Equator 2½ times. This is the amount of fossil fuels that will be burned today.
During working hours today, workers must extract enough new fuel to fill up another 50,000-mile long chain of trucks, to cover tomorrow’s needs. Each day after that, that the same thing must happen, as long as we use the destructive energy system. About 350 million workers are employed finding, digging for, pumping, and otherwise extracting these fuels, getting them to the transport systems, moving the fuels to the furnaces and other places they will be burned, and burning these resources.
We could get the same amount of energy contained in these fuels using methods that don’t require destruction. For example, we could use solar panels, which turn the photons in sunlight directly into electricity. This technology has been around for decades and it is a mature technology; it is well understood, reliable and safe.
The electricity produced is exactly the same as the energy that comes from destructive sources.
A few simple calculations would show that if everyone had solar systems like mine on their roofs, we would have all the electricity we use now, and wouldn’t need any fossil fuel plants, anywhere on Earth. (You can find these calculations in the book Anatomy of Destruction, available on Amazon.)
But there is a problem: the solar systems produce the energy, but they don’t produce jobs. There are no jobs running solar facilities.
If we were to switch from the destructive energy systems now in use to non-destructive systems like solar, hundreds of millions of people who now have jobs would no longer have employment. We live in societies that cannot function if the unemployment rate gets above a certain level.
If you ever watch news programs or videos, you will know that people in high positions within governments are very worried about job losses. They have found that fairly small subsidies paid to destructive industries can preserve large numbers of jobs by driving down the costs of the destructive options to just below the costs of using the non-destructive alternatives.
People who care about the world get pretty upset when they hear about these subsidies. They think it is wrong to take money away from hard-working people, making it harder to support their families, to pay corporations to destroy the world around us. They protest the subsidies and do everything they can to stir up the people to try to get their politicians to do something to end them.
When the subsidies were fairly small (back in the days when solar and other non-destructive options were still fairly expensive), governments could trick the anti-destruction groups into believing the governments were responding to their protests by replacing the open subsidies with hidden subsidies. (Many of the subsidies that go to encourage destruction are hidden in incredibly clever ways; you can find complete descriptions of some of the more important subsidies in Anatomy of Destruction, available on Amazon.) But as the cost of non-destructive systems plummet, and the costs of destruction increase, governments have had to increase their subsidies to truly massive levels. These subsidies are now so large that it isn’t really possible to hide them anymore.
The politicians have had to change their tactics: now they are open about these subsidies, shouting their support of the subsidies from the podiums. They are proud of these policies: their people need jobs, non-destructive systems will kill jobs, and they are going to do everything they can to protect the people they represent by making sure these jobs are still in place.
As long as we live in societies that collapse if they don’t create enough work, we won’t be able to deal with the destruction one act at a time. Getting a particularly smoky fossil fuel power plant to close, exposing and getting rid of a well-hidden subsidy on fracking for gas or oil, or voting out a specific government official that is clearly acting as a puppet for a destructive industry, isn’t going to make any difference. More destructive plants will be built to replace the one that closes. Legislators will find other ways to subsidize destruction. The fossil fuel companies will find other political puppets and this time they will make sure that the public doesn’t know that these people even are their puppets: they will make all their deals behind closed doors and channel their influence through shell corporations, political action committees, and lobbies that can’t be traced to the destructive companies that fund and operate them.
If we want to really do something about the destruction, we can’t do it taking on one problem at a time. We need to take a different approach. We have to accept that the foundational structures of the societies that dominate the world around us have flaws that generate very dangerous forces. We have to come to understand these structures, figure out how and why these societies create these forces, and figure out other ways that they can work.
We need to accept that the societies we inherited are diseased. They are unable to meet the needs of the people and we need to accept that this disease is fatal and will kill us if it remains in place long enough. Then, we need to come to understand what must be done to bring about a condition of health.
We need to be willing to accept that the people who built the foundational institutions of our world today may not have thought things through. They may have made mistakes. We need to accept that we are in a position now to understand things that our ancient ancestors didn’t understand. We need to come to understand these things ourselves.
This book provides the information needed to understand a new way of looking at human existence and a new paradigm that can be built on this understanding. To understand these things, we basically need to start fresh in certain areas. We can’t simply accept that certain key structures exist because nature or some invisible spirit being wants them to exist, assume that we can’t do anything about these things, and then go from there. We need to accept that our minds are very capable. We can understand anything if we try. People who fall back on saying things like, ‘It works that way because that is the way God wants it to work’ or, ‘it’s magic,’ are mentally lazy; they are using these explanations as excuses to not take the time and effort to figure out how things really work.
For example, we know that the entities we call the ‘governments’ of the entities we call ‘countries’ often do truly horrible things. Rather than worrying about details like how we can get rid of the specific leaders in certain governments that do the worst things, we can look at the big picture. What are countries? How did they come to exist? What human needs do they meet? If we were in a position to start fresh, and design any kind of society we wanted, would we want to incorporate these structures into our societies? If not, what structures would we be able to use to replace them?
We need a scientific understanding of the basic structures that can be put together to create a human society. We need a scientific understanding of the long-term needs of the human race. We need a scientific understanding of the institutions that can help meet these needs. We need to understand the different ways these institutions can be assembled into finished ‘societies.’ We need tools to help us understand which ‘assemblies of institutions’—which ‘societies’—are structurally unsound and unable to meet the needs of the human race, and which are sound and can meet our needs.
We have to understand there is a big picture. Then we have to step back far enough to see it. We have to set a goal for the human race, figuring out how we want our world to work at some point in the future (in other words, figure out what a healthy society looks like). Then we need to figure out what institutions and structures are needed to make the world work this way. Then we need to figure out the specific steps that we can take to cause the required institutions and structures to exist.
This will require a change in mindset.
It will not be easy to start thinking about the world different ways. I wish I could tell you that I knew of easier things that we could do that would make this change in mindset unnecessary. I wish I could tell you that there is a beach with a magic lamp we could rub to produce a genie that would fill our minds with enlightenment and that if we all looked together, we would find the lamp and not have to do the mental work needed to come to understand these things. I wish that I had figured out a way to get the people who run the entities called ‘countries’ or ‘corporations’ to realize that working to advance the interests of their countries or corporations at the expense of the people of the world is pushing us toward the end. I wish that I had found a way to have them suddenly reverse their efforts and start doing the opposite of the things they have been doing their entire lives, and work to make the world better for everyone, rather than just the lives of the citizens or shareholders of the entities they control. I wish I could point to new studies that show that feeling love has real physical effects on the structures of societies and, if we just got to a certain level of love, our emotions would fix everything, without us having to analyze the decisions our ancestors made to find mistakes they may have made and fix them.
But the information I have tells me that none of these things can make a difference. We inherited societies that were not intelligently designed by scientific and logical people who understood the best way to build societies that can meet the needs of a species of intelligent beings with physical needs. These societies evolved as primitive humans evolved. They may have been able to meet certain needs of the people of the distant past, but they can’t meet our needs now.
The foundational structures of these societies work in ways that lead to forces that push the individuals within society to do things that harm the human race and the planet around us. As long as these structures remain sacrosanct—in other words, as long as we are afraid or unwilling to examine the key institutions of our societies and come to understand them—we are at the mercy of these forces. They will keep pushing us toward extinction with ever greater force. We absolutely can’t solve these problems by waiting for the wars, environmental catastrophes, or other disasters that we all know are inevitable, then trying to deal with them one at a time. The problems are the result of what we will see are design flaws in the societies that were in place when you and I were born onto this world. If we want to fix them, we have to come to understand the concept of a ‘well-designed society.’ We have to understand the exact differences between healthy societies and the type of society we have inherited. We have to design a set of steps that, if taken, will cause the societies we inherited to evolve into societies that are healthy.
That is what this book is about.
The Structure of This Book
We need to start with the basics. This book explains the basic elements of human societies with a kind of science fiction story: you the reader, me the author, and a large group of other people go back in time. We go back to just before the first humans evolved. We are, therefore, the first. We then decide what kind of society to form. We don’t have to conform our societies to any pre-existing institutions, because there are none in place. We will consider recreating the system that was in place back in the future, before we were transported back in time. We could get a map of the area around us, draw some lines to represent borders and divide the land into ‘countries.’ We could divide our group into different nationalities based on their passports, their skin colors, or some other factor, and then allocate the countries among the nationalities, declaring each of these countries to be a sovereign and independent entity, with the absolute right to do anything the people we have assigned to each country want to all land inside their borders, as was the rule back in the future.
We could look up the principles of international law, as they were accepted in 2020 AD, and formally accept these principles in the ancient past. One foundational principle of international law is called ‘right of conquest:’ This principle holds that if a country can put together an army large and powerful enough to conquer the army of another country, the leaders of the country that conquers can take anything they want from the country that has been conquered. We may decide that the people who worked out this principle, and all other principles and conventions that were in place in the 21st century, knew what they were doing, so these principles and conventions must all be sound. We can accept all the foundational elements of societies as they were back in the future, and recreate the societies we left behind, using these same foundations.
But we will realize that, if we do this, we will end up with the very same problems that we left behind. We are in a position to start fresh. We were on a path to extinction before we left the 21st century. We can forge any path we want now. We don’t have to start by putting ourselves on the very same path we left behind. We can look at our situation, figure out the paths that lie in front of us, and decide which one we want to take.
If we really want to understand the basics of human societies, we need to start with the simplest possible system, one that strips away the complexities and exposes all of the basic elements to view. Our group in the past will pass a very simple rule that will lead to an extremely simple system. We will examine this system first, to come to understand the basics; then we will expand the picture to understand how various other elements of societies fit in.
This rule will involve the idea of ownership of parts of planets by people and groups of people: some of our people think that some of the most serious problems we had in the future had something to do with the entities called ‘countries’ and the rights countries had to the mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and other parts of the world.
Back in the future, the great majority of the world was deemed to belong to entities called ‘countries.’ The countries claimed the land and, since other people did not always accept the claims made by the countries, the countries built armies to defend their claims. This led to problems: often, two different countries wanted and claimed the same mountain range, forest, river system, or other part of the world. They organized and fought to determine which country would have the right to be accepted in the world community as the owner of that part of the world, resolving the dispute, eventually, often taking advantage of the principle of the international law called the ‘rights of conquest’ described above. Since the winner of each war gained the spoils, the leaders of the countries had very powerful incentives to fight as hard as they could, even if this meant killing large numbers of innocent civilians and destroying things that people had spent many lifetimes building. Many people in our group that has gone back through time and is now in the ancient past believe that the problem of war seemed to be at least partially related to the idea of ownership of parts of planets by the entities called ‘countries.’
When we arrive in the ancient past, there are no countries. If we don’t create them, they won’t exist. Many people think that it may not be a good idea to start out by creating countries. They think we may want to leave the ideas of countries owning land for a later date: we can come to understand what countries are and how they might benefit us, and if we should find that they really don’t have anything to do with war or any other serious problems, we can build them later.
If our group in the past starts out by building certain specific structures, we may very well end up with the same problems we left behind, even though the details of the societies we create are entirely different.
Some people in our group are patriots: they loved their countries in the future and still believe they are real things. They want to create countries right away and start conquering land. But our people are mostly intelligent and educated and most of us think this would be a bad idea. Someone proposes we pass a rule that, for a period of time, will prohibit anyone from forming a country or any other organization which may claim to own a part of the planet, so we can do some analysis and see if this is a good idea before we do it. After some discussion, we pass this rule. No person or group may form a country or any other organization that is capable of owning any part of the planet until the moratorium is over. No person or group may create any institutions or structures that grant any rights of ownership to any person or group. This rule will only be in effect for a limited period of time, so we call it a ‘moratorium.’ When it gets close to expiry, we may decide to extend it; if we don’t, it will simply go away.
Natural Law Societies
When we pass this moratorium, we won’t be intending to form a specific type of society. But, by passing this rule, we will have put our systems on the same general foundation as other human societies that have existed in human history and have had millions of members.
As of the year 1492, the landmass now called ‘the Americas’ had been inhabited for more than 25,000 years. This landmass was densely populated as of 1492; although population claims vary, most scientific estimates center around about 100 million as the most likely population as of the date of first contact with societies from outside of the Americas, on October 12, 1492. Presumably, it had had a population close to this level for many centuries and probably for thousands of years.
This landmass had been isolated from the Afro-Eurasian landmass for at least 10,000 years. (During the most recent ice age, which ended 10,000 years ago, it is thought that the Bearing Sea was entirely frozen over, making it possible to walk from landmass to landmass prior to this time. About 10,000 years ago this ‘ice bridge’ melted, creating an extremely hostile and very difficult-to-cross body of water.) Over the most recent 10,000 years, the societies on both continents evolved, but they took entirely different evolutionary paths.
By 1492, all of the land of Europe, together with most of Asia and large parts of Africa, had been conquered by, claimed to be owned by, and administered by entities called ‘countries.’ The societies in these areas were organized around the countries: the countries had systems of taxes that they used to enforce their internal rules. They used another part of these taxes to pay for education systems to help people understand the responsibilities they had to their countries. They used another part of the tax money to pay armies to protect something they called their ‘sovereignty.’ When they claimed they had ‘sovereignty,’ they were basically claiming that they had the absolute right to make all decisions inside of their borders without any outside interference whatsoever. If any group from outside tried to interfere, they could use, and made it clear that they would use, their armies to prevent this interference from having any effect.
The societies of the Americas had taken a totally different evolutionary path. The idea of a country claiming to own and being accepted as the owner of the planet had never really taken hold on this landmass. Some of the systems in the Americas were quite complex, with enormous cities connected with well-engineered roads to networks of towns and villages, with well-engineered infrastructure, organized institutions to study astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences, and trading structures that brought goods from vast distances to different areas.
But they did not accept the idea of countries owning parts of planets. In fact, from the information that we have, they didn’t even accept the idea that individuals could own things like mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. They believed that people could own certain things: people owned their clothing, their tools, they owned the portable housing many of them lived in like teepees, but they did not own the mountains, rivers, islands, and other parts of the natural world. They thought that the unownability of the world was just a natural law of existence that all thinking people should be able to see without instruction. We can’t fool nature into making its land ownable by sewing pieces of cloth together to make flags, composing national anthems, and writing out declarations of independence and proclaiming they were ‘countries.’ They truly believed that humans couldn’t own, and they would not allow any of their people to create institutions that even implied that ownership or ownability existed.
The institutions that we call ‘countries’ are actually extremely complex entities with many features, some beneficial and some harmful. Societies that don’t accept that humans can own parts of planets can’t have countries, at least not in the form that countries take in our world today. Without countries, certain problems that were a key part of our world can’t exist, at least not in the form they took back in the future.
For example, the largest and most dangerous human conflicts back in the future involved countries that both claimed to own the same land fighting over ownership of that land. Clearly, societies that don’t have countries and don’t allow even the most basic institutions needed for ownability of land can’t have these particular kinds of conflicts. (They can have conflicts of course, but, as we will see, these conflicts take an entirely different form than the conflicts that are a constant part of societies that start by accepting that countries can own parts of planets.)
In fifteenth century Europe, it was common for two groups of people who each called their group a ‘country’ to organize great battles where they would use brutal weapons and murderous tactics to determine which of these two ‘countries’ would be allowed to call itself the owner of a specific mountain, mountain range, or other part of the planet Earth. The people in the Americas had been raised in societies that taught children that humans don’t own and can’t own the mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests of the world. They taught children that we depend on nature and the natural world entirely for our existence, in the same way that fleas depend on the dog they live on to keep them alive. The idea of two groups of people organizing mass murder events against each other to determine which group would gain the right to call itself the owner of a part of the planet would seem as ridiculous to people raised with these beliefs as the idea of two colonies of fleas organizing to kill each other to determine which flea colony would be allowed to call itself the owner of the dog they live on. Certain behavior patterns require certain foundations. We will see that many of the problem behaviors that are a part of our 21st century world absolutely requires foundational structures that are part of the institutions that we were raised to call ‘countries.’
In our 21st century world, countries are also responsible for certain beneficial structures. They provide roads, for example, schools, parks, irrigation systems, and fund scientific research. But we will see that none of these beneficial structures absolutely require countries to exist. In fact, most of these beneficial structures existed in some of the more advanced societies of the Americas as of 1492. They had great cities with millions of inhabitants, for example, and cities of this size can’t exist without some sort of structures in place to provide food, drinking water, roads, sanitation and trash removal, and other services. Their societies had these structures; we have enough historical information about them to know this and understand how these structures worked. But their people built these structures on entirely different foundations than the ones that supported the same structures in the societies that invaded and ultimately conquered the land of the Americas.
Our group from the future has not intended to lay out a foundation that will support a society. But as long as the moratorium against owning parts of planets (by either individuals or groups) is in place, we will have created a foundation. We are very intelligent people. We will start to set up certain key structures of our society right away, we will simply be prohibited by our basic rule from using the same foundation that supported these same structures back in our 21st century world. As we will see, countries with rights to own parts of planets really aren’t necessary to have things like roads, utilities, and the other key services that our group will need and want.
Our group happens to have brought back a great deal of technology with us, including computer servers, routers, and the other tools that we need to create an internet. We will have hard drives with pretty much all of the knowledge that was available in the 21st century available to us. We will be able to set up cell towers and use our phones to call each other and connect to the tiny internet we create, allowing us to access the information on the hard drive whenever we are close enough to the towers to get reception. We will have refrigerators, air conditioners, LED lights and televisions, and have the knowledge we need to use the raw materials of the Earth around us (which is the same Earth we left behind in the future) to make other things that we want but didn’t have a chance to bring back with us into the past.
We will start to take advantage of our situation right away and quickly see that it is possible (easy, actually) to build the structures that we need to have a very good life. We will find that it is simply not necessary for humans to divide the land into ‘countries’ and put up with the problems associated with countries owning parts of the planet.
Our starting society will be extremely simple. Later parts of the book will explain more complex societies, including the type of society that you and I were born into (which is incredibly complex). There are two reasons I want to start by explaining this simple society first, and then expanding it to cover more complex systems:
First, societies that don’t accept ownability of parts of the planet are extremely simple societies. Ownership of parts of planets introduces great complexities into a society. Without ownership of parts of planets (including by countries), these complexities don’t exist. If we want to understand how human societies work, we want to start with simple systems and look at them first to understand how the basic structures work. Once we understand the basics, we can go on to other societies that introduce various complexities one at a time. I want to start with this very simple type of society because it is very easy to understand.
Second, this particular type of society has existed in the past. Millions of people lived in societies without ownership or ownability of land for thousands of years in the Americas. This means that billions of people were born into these societies; they were raised in these societies, educated in them, met their mates in them, and they raised their own families in these societies. We don’t have to speculate to work out the details of life in these societies. We know how they worked.
Many people in the past have made the same claim I am making here: the societies that we inherited have structural flaws. These other authors have proposed that, if we start with other foundations, we would be able to build sound societies. Some of these people have actually suggested other possible foundations that can support societies.
But many people criticized their work, in many cases aggressively. They claimed that this analysis wasn’t useful because the societies these people explained were hypothetical systems that have never existed and therefore could never really be proven to be possible at all. It was all wild speculation, something that no realistic person could ever take seriously: there are just too many things to consider in order to figure out a human society. The people who claimed we could build on other foundations can’t possibly have considered everything, so nothing they say is worth considering. They are ‘pie in the sky idealists’ (if they claim that sound and healthy societies are possible) or ‘utopian dreamers’ (if they propose that societies that were better than the societies we inherited were possible).
One clear example involves Sir Thomas More’s book, ‘Utopia.’ This book described an alternate society that is built on an entirely different foundation than the foundation that supported the societies of the Afro-Eurasian landmass as of 1515 (the year the book was written). The book claims that this society, which is built on an entirely different foundation as the societies of Afro-Eurasia at the time, has many desirable features that could never exist in the societies of Afro-Eurasia at the time. Critics claim that the descriptions in this book are nothing more than fantasy, because More is describing a society that is far too good to be true. He is a ‘utopian dreamer’ (in fact, critics of his book coined this term to refer to any who thought like More). Many others, both before and after More, had the same idea. But they could all be dismissed with the same argument: it is nothing but wild speculation, something that can never be proven to be possible. We have a lot of things to do; we can’t waste our time thinking about such nonsense.
The second reason I want our group of modern people who go into the past to start with this particular type of society is that it definitely has existed. There is no question whatsoever that the Americas were populated and that the people of the Americas had different societies than the societies of Europe as of the late 1400s.
We don’t have to speculate about how such a society would operate if anyone were somehow able to create it: we have libraries full of information about the way these societies operated, warehouses full of records of events during the 400 years these societies coexisted with societies built on the concept of countries. We have immense quantities of scientific information about the details of these systems based on artifacts and buildings they left behind, and writings by the groups in the pre-conquest Americas that had written languages.
This means that we don’t have to use any kind of wild speculation to figure out the characteristics of the society our group of modern people build on this same simple foundation in the distant past. If we want to understand a particular detail, we can go to the books and records and look it up. We can study these societies in intricate detail from the records that are available to us in the 21st century.
I am not claiming and will not claim that this extremely simple society is perfect. (Even Thomas More didn’t claim the society he described was perfect. He merely pointed out that it didn’t have and couldn’t have very serious problems that could not be solved at all in the context of the society he wrote about, unlike the problems faced by a society built on ownership of parts of planets by countries.) We will compare this society to various different types of societies that are possible later in the book. We will see that it has certain advantages and certain disadvantages relative to each of the other types of societies we could have formed, including the societies that we had back in the 21st century before we went back in time. I am not claiming it is better, only that it is different. If it can be shown that any society that is different from the ones we inherited is possible—even if this different society has problems that the societies we have now don’t have—this is proof that the people who claim we can never live any other way are wrong. We are capable of living other ways. Once we accept this, we are led naturally to this question: what other ways can we organize our societies? If at least one other system is possible, it makes sense to figure out all of the options, find out how they all work, find out the exact differences between them, and find the system that can be proven to be possible and practical that best meets the needs of the human race. Then, once we know this, we can have some sort of group decision-making process to determine if we, the people of the planet Earth, want the better system. If we do, we can simply create it.
Our group in the remote past is going to start with an extremely simple society, one with an absolute rule against forming countries or allowing any individual or group to own any rights whatsoever to any part of the world. We will have this society for as long as the rule we passed prohibiting ownability remains in effect. In this case, the rule is a moratorium; it will run out after twenty years. After we have lived in this society for twenty years, we will be able to look at it from two perspectives:
First, you and I both know how we would act in certain situations. We can use introspection to put ourselves into the situation of the group in the past and figure out how we would vote in the elections the group has, how we would interact with others, what we would do to get money and where we would spend it (as modern people we will use modern tools and create money quickly in this story), and how we would deal with the various other situations we would encounter. Since we know how we would act ourselves and have a pretty good idea how other people would act too, we can put together a pretty good mental picture of the way this society would work.
Second, we can look up the way these societies operated when they existed. We have all been told stories about the way the people who lived in the Americas before conquest lived. A lot of these stories don’t appear to make a lot of sense. (For example, how could people live in large numbers without destroying the world around them? Isn’t environmental destruction a part of human nature? If it is, and these people were humans, then it is pretty hard to understand how they could have lived on these lands for more than 10,000 years without doing any real harm to it.) We will see that everything that we know about the groups that had these societies will make a lot of sense when we understand the decisions that modern people would make if they were limited by a rule like the one our group in the remote past has created.
Our group in the past will soon realize that this absolute prohibition on ownability of any kind is going to make it impossible for us to have certain things that we all are used to having, and that we all want. We are from the 21st century and want many things that we know are possible and we know can exist if we have the necessary institutions.
We will realize that if we want some of these things, we will need to make some exceptions to the rule that prohibits any institutions that would accept that humans had any of the rights that might be construed as ‘ownership rights.’ After some discussions, we will decide that we can make certain specific exceptions to this rule. If we do this carefully, making sure that we create institutions that allow only very limited rights of ownership and ownability, and then only when these institutions benefit the human race as a whole, we can build a system with the advantages of the systems we left behind but without the disadvantages of these systems.
We are all from the 21st century and we know what is necessary to have the things we want. We will be able to see that most of the institutions that we had in the 21st century don’t lead to any significant problems. We can add them in, if we want, without ever having to worry about ‘countries’ coming to exist, and without any groups ever gaining the right to destroy the world around us for profit.
But we will see that certain other institutions are extremely dangerous. If we add these institutions, we will almost immediately wind up with very serious problems. Our group in the remote past is in an ideal situation. We start with the simplest possible society. We will then add in the specific institutions that can help us make our existence better. We aren’t in a rush: we don’t have to do everything the first day. We have time to study the different structures that we could make a part of our society. We can decide which structures will benefit us and which will harm us. (In this discussion ‘we’ and ‘us’ refers to ‘the members of the human race;’ our group in the past includes everyone alive at that time.) We can then add in the structures that benefit us, building them on top of our simple starting foundation, and make sure that the harmful structures are not included.
As we go through these steps, we will end up with a type of society that has never existed before. It won’t be an absolute society with regards to the rights it accepts. In other words, it won’t be based on the idea that humans have no right to alter the world in any way, because only owners have the right to alter, and it won’t be based on the idea that groups of people who call themselves ‘countries’ can own absolutely all rights to the world and can do anything to it that they want.
It will be something in between. You may think of it as a hybrid system. Just as hybrid cars mix the best characteristics of fuel-using vehicles with the best characteristics of electric vehicles, creating cars that can operate under just about any conditions, have the same range capabilities, power, and refueling abilities as fuel-using vehicles, but are capable of operating without producing emissions much of the time, the hybrid society will take the best of the type of society that our group in the past created when we first arrived (the system we had when we didn’t allow anyone to do anything that might be associated with ownership or ownability of land, which is the same kind of system most groups of pre-conquest Americans had) with the best characteristics of the systems we left behind in the 21st century.
We will see that we can build a system that basically allows people to control land privately with the consent of the human race, provided they agree to rules the human race creates to protect the land and agree to share a part of the wealth the land produces with the human race. We will see that the basic ideas of this hybrid system are not by any means new: many people in the past have seen that it really isn’t possible to build a sound society on the principle that everything in the existence is ownable and naturally belongs to whoever has enough money to buy it. But if we use logic and reason to design structures, then put them together in a logical way, we can build sound societies. These people realized that absolute philosophical principles can’t be the foundations for sound societies. We need some flexibility. People have actually pointed this out many times over history. Some have even worked out the key structures that we would need to make this kind of society work.
One important analyst in this area was Socrates. Socrates actually put together many of the foundational ideas that support the ‘hybrid’ society this book discusses. Socrates claimed that we can’t build sound societies if we try to base them on feelings, emotions, or guesses about the intentions and wishes of the gods that the state required people to worship. We need to start with practical analysis based on logic and reason, find structures that can meet our needs, and put them into place, if we want sound societies. In this book, I will use the term ‘Intellect-Based Societies’ to refer to societies that are based on the principles Socrates explained.
Our group in the ancient past will put together a society that is built on intellect, rather than philosophical principles, emotions, and feelings. We will realize that certain structures work in ways that give the individuals in society incentives to do things that harm the human race as a whole. We will not include structures like these in our society. We will also realize that some structures we can include in societies work in ways that lead to great benefits for the human race as a whole. We will include these structures in our society. All of the structures that we will put into our society come from one of the two societies our group in the past has had (When we first arrive in the ancient past, we pass a rule that creates the same type of society that the pre-conquest American people had; we all come from the 21st century and understand the country-based societies that dominated the world then.) This is a hybrid society, built around intelligent design and logical principles.
Much of this book is about this ‘hybrid’ society. In order to discuss it intelligently, I will need to name it. Since this society is built on principles that originate with Socrates, I will call it a ‘socratic society.’ About half of the text of this book is about the socratic society. I want to make it as easy as possible to understand, so it starts with the simplest society that humans can form, one that doesn’t allow any person or group to own any part of the world. (Again, most groups of pre-conquest American people had societies like this.) It then adds in various structures that allow people to buy and own certain rights to use certain parts of the world as private property, provided they follow rules designed to protect this land and share the wealth the land generates with the people of the world. We will see that all of the structures that we add in for this purpose already exist and are already a part of our 21st century world. Because these structures exist, we already understand them, we know they work (because they are working now), and we understand the advantages they bring.
We will end up with a system that looks a lot like the societies we have in the 21st century world. Their details will look very familiar to you: they work just like the world around you now. There will be supermarkets where people buy things with money, which they will keep in banks; they will be able to make money by working or owning and operating businesses. There will be televisions, cars, cell phones, refrigerators, and other goods available to buy and the prices will be very similar to the prices of such goods in our world today. There are certain structures that work very well and that we all understand. There is no reason to get rid of these structures: if you are building a hybrid system, you want the best of both the starting systems. The socratic system will put together the best characteristics of both societies our group in the ancient past understands.
Although the details will be very similar to those of the societies we inherited, the foundations will be entirely different. The problems that threaten us come from the foundational structures of the societies we have inherited. We will see that it is possible to have sound societies that have all of the characteristics that we need and want, but rest on entirely different foundations. The socratic system is based on the idea that the human race is the dominant species on this planet. We are in charge. We can make the rules. We want rules that benefit us, both over the long run and in the short-term. We can make rules that allow people who are willing to basically act as partners to the human race, helping us make things that make life better for us all in exchange for a share of the profits. They will be able to do this, provided they are willing to follow rules the human race creates to protect the planet and keep our race safe.
In this story, we are starting from scratch and can therefore create any society we want. Since we have no limits, since we have all of the advantages of knowledge of the societies that existed in the past and full access to technology and other tools of the 21st century, we will find we can create a sound and healthy society quite easily.
Back to the Future
Solving the problems that threaten the human race requires several steps. As a first step, we must know that a healthy society is possible. We must be able to understand the exact conditions that are necessary to create such a society. We have to know how a healthy society works, and we have to know the exact differences between a healthy society and the unhealthy societies that dominate the world now.
To go back to the original analogy, if your loved one has tuberculosis and you want to cure her, you have to understand the exact differences between bodies that have tuberculosis and those that are healthy. In the early twentieth century scientists discovered that there is one and only one factor that is always different in people with tuberculosis and people without tuberculosis: people with the bacteria called ‘mycobacterium tuberculosis’ in their lungs have tuberculosis; people without this don’t have tuberculosis. If we want to cure people with tuberculosis, we don’t have to remove their spleens, their tonsils, or attach leaches to their bodies to suck out their blood.
We just have to figure out a way to get rid of the bacteria. Once the bacteria are gone, the symptoms will stop getting worse and, if the bacteria haven’t done too much damage already, we can restore health to the entire body without a lot of trouble.
If we want to deal with the problems that threaten us, we have to understand the fundamental differences between healthy societies and sick societies. It is true that the societies that we have now have a great many very serious problems. But we don’t have to solve all of these problems to have sound societies. We only have to deal with the infectious agent. This will make a condition of health possible. After we have eliminated the key problem that precludes health, we can work on dealing with the side-effects of these problems. We can eliminate the symptoms, one at a time, starting with the most serious.
Everything in Chapters Two through Twelve deals with the realities of life for our small society in the ancient past. We will have enough experience to understand the exact difference between healthy societies and diseased ones.
The discussions will then move back to the future. We will understand the exact characteristics a society must have to be healthy. We will see that the societies we inherited from past generations do not have these characteristics. We will understand that most of the institutions that we have in the existing societies are not harmful to us and a great many are beneficial. We don’t have to get rid of these institutions. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to even try to get rid of them, because this would make the transition to a healthy society harder.
The final chapters of the book go over what you might think of as a ‘treatment plan’ for the societies we have inherited. We will see that we really are in a great position to begin to undertake the change. We have technology that never existed before. We are now in a position to act as a world community for the first time in human history, with the entire human race participating in forums and even in elections to determine the will of the people. We have sciences that are far beyond anything that has existed in the past. The great majority of the people of the world are at least familiar with the scientific method of analysis and most of the people who understand this method and have used it, trust it, and know it is reliable. (This is a new experience in human history.) We have skills and talents; we have tried things, we have millions of years of human history, in part derived from scientific analysis and in part from written records. We know what has been tried in the past, what has worked, and what has not worked.
If we understand the tools and other advantages that we have, if we know exactly where we want to end up and understand exactly what we must change to get there, and if we design the treatment plan correctly, we have an extremely good chance of effecting a cure. The steps I propose are intellectually challenging to understand. It is very hard to accept that the very foundation of our understanding of human existence may be flawed. If the foundation is flawed, then our entire understanding of reality and of the things that are important in the world may turn out to be nonsense and we may have to rethink many of the things we always thought that we understood. It is hard to go through the required mental gymnastics.
I wish there were an easier way, something that wouldn’t require this mental effort. But logic and reason tell us that there is no easier way. If a problem has structural causes, you need to find the defective structures and fix them.
I think it is worth the effort. When I listen to Beethoven, when I get into a jet and fly thousands of miles in a few hours, when I walk down the streets of New York, or Hong Kong, or Paris and see the wonders of city life, when I just watch television and see the incredible movies bounced off of satellites in space just to entertain me, I am amazed at the things humans have done.
When I walk through the forests, when I walk along the shore, when I swim in a mountain lake, when I watch the sunset in the desert, I am overwhelmed with sheer joy at just having the incredible opportunity to be able to live on such a wonderful world. I can’t bear to think that there may come a time, perhaps only a few years in the future, when none of this will exist anymore.
Our ancestors made mistakes. We are in a position to fix them. It will not be easy, but it is possible if we put out enough effort and, I believe, it is worth the effort.