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We Deserve to Evolve - Sam Rose

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This is an entry in The Future We Deserve - a collaborative book project about the future. See all the entries or talk about this entry.

The human species now projects a world footprint [1] that is the equivalent of 1.4 of our total planet system. This means that we have already now exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.

Current human activities, often based on industrial-era ways of human interaction with global biological and geological systems, are revealing themselves to be fashioned in a way that exceeds the Earth's ability to absorb and dissipate. The changes that result from our activities are not always equal to the activities that caused them. Stuart Kauffman, and other complex systems thinkers have discussed that in their observations of dynamics in many systems, transformation tends to display a power law [2] distribution in the quantity of the size, and frequency of changes. The work of Bak-Tang-Weisenfeld and their "Sandpile model"[3] offers an illustrative example. In the "Sandpile model", sand is continuously added to a pile a few grains at a time. As the sand pile builds up, it reaches a critical state and dissipates sand by way of both emergent large- and small-scale avalanches. When the critical state is reached, any new grain of sand may unpredictably have no effect, a small effect, or may cause the whole system to cascade into total avalanche.

The important lesson here is that on every scale of the Universe we are a part of, things are changing and evolving in a way where output is not directly proportional to input. Therefore, we cannot plan and engineer human society around assumptions where we believe that outcomes can be measured by current and past actions alone.

The "Sandpile model" is an appropriate model for observing the emergence of critical behavior in a variety of systems, where the nature of the system is "self-organized", or "emergent". As we co-evolve with planetary systems, our activities and interactions will result in a "transition" of phases, from old ways of adapting, to new ways of adapting. We have a chance, and a choice, now, as to how this transition will play out.

Sharing is the key missing dynamic in human activities worldwide. Sharing economies give people alternatives to market economies[4]. World-wide, humans desperately need to dramatically increase the volume of voluntary sharing taking place among people, especially in relation to basic needs like food, water, energy, physical production, access to information. Sharing resources formally and perpetually is plausibly the fastest route to bringing human activity back to within the carrying capacity of the planet. Don't wait for permission to share. Sharing is a human right, and arguably a human responsibility. The most important question we can ask now, to create the conditions for real change in human activity is: "what I am doing now that I can currently share with others?" The next most important question we can ask now is: "how can I work with others to co-create conditions for the co-governance of what is being shared?"

If your goal is to control a resource, you are likely really working towards a path to totally destroy the resource. This applies to physical resources such as water, raw materials, etc, as well as the freely shared time, energy, and goodwill of other people. The secret to giving up control is also working together with others to ensure that resources are shared equitably, and remain available in perpetuity.