The ‘Upside’ of Collapse; 6 Ways to Live

In the aftermath of the upheaval that was EdgeRyders and EdgeCamp, a friend posed this question on Twitter ;

“SCIM is ok & done. We need a manual on “support networks for activists”. Starts at self-support & outwards. Six ways to live anyone?”

SCIM stands for ‘Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps‘ which is a clarifying and elegant thought process regarding ‘societal collapse’ (of any kind) which takes as its starting point the ‘6 Ways to Die’. These are; too hot, too cold, hunger, thirst, illness & injury. There are 3 axes there of environment, nourishment and externalities.

We live in a time of rapid change that threatens to unfold into chaos and collapse. Those of us who think about these issues, ‘the collapsonomists’, have spent a lot of time considering the ‘downside’ which is probably why our tools and thoughts look so pessimistic.

But my friend brings up a vital issue, the other side of the coin or, in other words, the ‘upside’.

Everyone has heard the piece of apocrypha that the Chinese ideogram for crisis is made up of the characters for ‘danger’ and for ‘opportunity’. We are all agreed on and all too well aware of the dangers. But it is, also, true that we do live in a time of magnificent opportunity.

Not only are there opportunities to design away many of the ‘bad’ aspects of our society in the midst of the coming changes but also there will be chances to create new and imaginative structures and systems that will better support humans and nurture our humanity.

Mainly, these will come from the Internet in terms of the amount, the different types and the cheap abundance of the information it will supply us. But all of the old paradigms will be available for reworking as their underpinnings weaken and shift and as their promises evaporate.

So, it is incumbent on us to have a clear vision of what the downside risks are and to build tools to mitigate the damage. But it is also and, in my view, a greater imperative to have a vision of what shape we want the ‘New World Order’ to be.

I do not pretend to know that NWO should be. I am very clear that I know what I do not want it to be. I would like to start this discussion by building a framework to guide those thoughts.

Let me start with a popular if outmoded model, that of Herzberg’s ‘Hygiene/Motivation’ 2 Factor Model of behavior. If SCIM can be taken as the ‘hygiene’ component, then what we are missing is the ‘Motivation’ component. What do we want our society to be, what does motivate us and how should we shape our new culture to ‘accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative’, so to speak.

I will start by positing 3 axes that configure human existence as being the emotional, the spiritual and the intellectual. I would extend that ‘model’ by saying that each axis has opposites or counterbalances (in preference to saying positives and negatives).

With respect to our emotional well-being we are both individuals and we are tribal. Where spirituality concerns us we are physical beings with a consciousness that tells us, despite our raging egos, that we are but dust-motes in Nature’s cathedral. Intellectually, we also know that, despite our talents and abilities, we are nothing without the contributions of others and all progress comes from “standing on the shoulders of giants” who went before us.

Our axes give us 6 faces or boundaries of our space.

These are (I think), as paired by opposites; Autonomy vs Collaboration, Material vs Mental, Public vs Private.

We have to find a way for people to have freedom commensurate with our genetic form and mental capacities. This means balancing being an individual and autonomous with the need to support and be supported by a tribe or troupe of collaborators of one’s choosing.

We have to find a way to live materially in a sustainable way while having sufficient resources to fulfill our mental ambitions be they artistic, scientific or spiritual.

We have to find a way to balance the needs of governance with the needs of the governed. Lincoln phrased it beautifully when he spoke of government of the people by the people for the people. Today we have the dichotomy of the need for openness and transparency as a counterweight to the huge scale and power of the machinery of governance whose role and scope we keep expanding throughout positive and negative pressures.

In addition to these hopes and dreams we are faced with severe constraints.

We know that we are apes and that we are still evolving. That implies a legacy that has good and bad traits and imposes constraints as well great gifts. We are still evolving and we have the desire and the ability to shape that evolution, starting from here and now.

We have been a different kind of ape for about 150,000 years now and that comes with a legacy of culture of various forms and qualities as well. Again, some of this wonderful and enriching but much of it is either pointless or harmful.

Our difference means that we have moved the planet into the ‘Holocene’ era, something never encountered by Nature before, where humanity can affect its habitat significantly and dangerously. The obverse of the fact that there are now 7 billion of us and likely to be 9 billion within our lifetimes is that we do not have good means of ‘managing’ ourselves. We, the wealthy and educated of the OECD are both few in number and excessive in consumption thereby making an unbalanced example for the majority.

So we have 3 axes (degrees of freedom) and 3 constraints (physiological, cultural and managerial) and 6 boundary conditions and a crisis (the immovable mountain of diminishing resources meeting the irresistible force of 9 billion people demanding “More!”). Despite the mathematical phrasing, I have no formula for a solution nor am I sure that I have properly mapped the problem space.

But I am willing to work at it and am listening for your comments.

Leave a comment

Your comment