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Friday, April 18th, 2008

From the SynEARTH Archives. … Today, I define the ORTEGRITY, this is the third in the series that started with the Discovery in North Carolina of the Organizational Tensegrity, and was followed by my discussion of Heterarchy—The Secret of Japan, Inc..

Defining Ortegrity

Timothy Wilken, MD

Life’s pattern of organization is the tensegrity, it has been in use on earth for over three and one half billion years. The tensegrity is the basis of organizing all living systems including our own bodies. Up until now we humans have not understood the mechanism and therefore could not use this pattern to organize our marriages, our businesses, our organizations and institutions, our communities, or even the entire human species.

Humans who organize themselves using the pattern of tensegrity will find themselves orders of magnitude more efficient, more productive, more creative, more intelligent. More importantly they will be much more successful in pursuing their goals and desires.

Within this half century, we humans have developed ergometric science to help us improve our tool-making. Ergometric scientists tell us how to best design tools to fit the human form. By carefully measuring both the physiology and psychology of the human body, today’s scientists are seeking to determine the best designs for new tools. They know that the best tools are those that fit you like a well-tailored glove fits your hand.

Recently ergometric science has been much advanced by a breakthrough in our understanding of human intelligence. With the development of the “dual mind” model of human intelligence it is now possible to design tools that fit the human “mind-brain”. In other words, we can now ergometrically engineer tools to fit the way we humans think.

We humans are the toolmakers, and in our history we have made many tools — both simple and complex. The most complex and complicated of all our tools are our organizations — the corporations, institutions, militaries, and governments of earth. These are also the most important tools in all our lives, for they significantly influence both the quality and quantity of our lives. Of all the tools we might seek to ergometrically engineer to fit the human “mind-brain”, there exists no greater potential benefit for all humankind then by applying this science to our most complex tools — our human organizations.

One such tool has recently completed development, and is now available to organizations for immediate application. This first ergometrically designed tool for human organizations is called the Ortegrity. The Ortegrity is a “mind-brain” compatible system of organizing humans. It can be used by a small group of individuals or a giant corporation with hundreds of thousands of employees.

The Ortegrity is a “system of human organization that creates a conflict-free environment for decision making and action implementation”. This is an environment so ergometrically suited to human thinking that efficiency and productivity are predicted to increase 10 to 1000 times. Yes, that is 10 to 1000 times more efficient and productive.

The Ortegrity achieves its great power by creating an ideal psychological environment for human thinking. One important finding of recent mind-brain research, is “that whenever humans experience conflict they lose access to their full intelligence”. When humans are confronted with conflict, their mind-brains shift to a very primitive and highly reactive way of thinking called the survive mode. The survive mode  evolved in the jungle to insure physical survival. Its primary skills are fighting and fleeing. Its extremes are rage and terror. All humans thinking in the survive mode will find their intelligence to be severely limited. Access is lost to the faculties of reason and intuition. In severe conflict, many of us lose even our ability to speak. Unfortunately, the survive mode turns on with the slightest conflict, and instantaneously our intelligence begins to decrease. It is not simply on or off. It is more like the rheostat dimmer switch controlling a dinning room light. A little conflict will produce a little loss of intelligence, while a large conflict will produce a large loss of intelligence. If we remain in conflict for weeks, then we will operate at limited intelligence for weeks. And in full rage or terror, we humans access only a tiny fraction of our potential intelligence. Conflict is to organizations as friction is to machinery.

The power of the Ortegrity results then from its unique ability to create a conflict-free state. It is this conflict-free state that optimizes human intelligence and creativity. It is this conflict-free state that maximizes efficiency and productivity. It is this conflict-free state that increases the quality of work-life. It is the conflict-free state that allows all relationships between all members to become win-win.

In the difficult political-economic times ahead, organizations must learn to work smarter. Only by optimizing the human factor can they hope to survive. The Ortegrity promises to increase efficiency and productivity by 10 to 1000 times. It accomplishes this by increasing the intelligence and creativity of all members in the system. This is working “smartest”. The Ortegrity was designed to fit the human “mind-brain” like a well tailored glove fits your hand, it could change the way we all work and live in the future.

When living systems — the plants, the animals, and our own human bodies are compared to the best of man-made systems — the corporations, the institutions, our governments and militaries, Living systems are found to be one to three orders of magnitude more efficient and productive. By utilizing the Ortegrity, it appears possible to restructure human organizations so they are ten to one thousand times more efficient and productive.

Synergic Consensus

Synergic consensus is a much more powerful mechanism of decision than the majority rule of present day committees. All decisions with an Ortegrity system are made within Decision Heterarchy. A decision heterarchy is made up of a group of humans with common purpose. The minimum number is 2 the maximum number is presently unknown. I believe the ideal size may be ~six or seven individuals. The group is organized horizontally with all individuals sharing equal authority and equal responsibility.

We humans are most familiar with the committee system. It is very different than the Heterarchy. While they are both methods of organizing human individuals to make decisions for group action. Committees are filled with conflict and highly ineffective. In a committee no individual is held responsible for the actions taken by the group. And decision is made by majority ultimatum. A desenting minority member can support the action he voted against or leave the committee. Heterarchy of the Ortegrity, in contrast organizes individuals to have equal authority to decide on joint action with equal responsibility for the resultant that is produced by that action.

Synergic consensus occurs when a group of humans sitting in heterarchy negotiate to reach a decision in which they all win and in which no one loses. In a synergic heterarchy, all members sit on the same level as “equals”. No one has more authority than anyone else. Every one has equal responsibility and equal authority within the heterarchy. The assignment for the heterarchy is to find a plan of action so that all members win. It is the collective responsibility of the entire heterarchy to find this “best” solution. Anyone can propose a plan to accomplish the needs of the group. All problems related to accomplishing the needs would be discussed at length in the heterarchy.

The proposed action for solving a problem is examined by all members of the heterarchy. Anyone can suggest a modification, or even an alternative action to solve the problem. All members of the heterarchy serve as information sources for each other. The heterarchy continues in discussion until a plan of action is found that will work for everyone. When all are in agreement and only then can the plan be implemented. The plan insures that all members of the synergic heterarchy win. All members are required to veto any plan where they or anyone else would lose. But all vetoes are immediately followed by renegotiation to modify the plan so the loss can be eliminated.

Unanimous Agreement

Synergic consensus is unanimous agreement. I can hear the objections now. “That’s impossible, you will never get everyone in the group to agree.” “Decisions will never get made.” “It is hard enough to get a majority to agree.”

A Japanese business heterarchy is slower at making decisions than a single manager in an American business hierarcy. It takes longer for a group of individuals to discuss, negotiate, and come to agreement than it takes for a single American manager to decide all by himself. If the speed of making decisions is the only criteria for choosing a mechanism of decision making then the business tyrant — the rule by one is the clear standout.

However, the Japanese have shown us the disadvantages of other directed hierarchies. Majority rule committee is not a rapid decision making process. Individuals within a committee are seeking to gain the majority of support. This takes time — sometimes a lot of time. The focus is on lining up votes — working deals — in a word — politics. This process is anything but rapid. If all decisions in American businesses were made by majority rule, decision making would probably be even slower than in Japanese companies using heterarchical consensus.

Synergic consensus is only now becoming available to humanity. We do not yet know how fast it will be at making decisions. But, I predict that decision making by synergic consensus will prove faster than decision making by majority rule. Synergic consensus elimates conflict. Recall conflict is the stuggle to avoid loss. Conflict is at the very heart of majority rule decison making. The focus of synergic consensus is very different. The entire group knows from the outset that they cannot lose. They are focused on choosing a plan of action that serves the needs of all the members in the group — to choose a plan of action that causes no one to lose. The synergic veto is not invoked capriciously. The only basis for synergic veto is to prevent someone from losing. This is a mechanism to eliminate loss — to choose the very best plan of action for everyone. This may well speed up the process of decison making. In any event regardless of the speed of decision, implimentation will be rapid. There is no conflict. This is a major advantage.

The Synergic Veto

Synergic Mechanism accepts the Neutral value — To Prohibit Loss. Those humans using synergic mechanism desire just as strongly as those using neutral mechanism not to lose, but synergic mechanism is more. Both parties need to win. Let us recall our basic definition,

Co-OPERATION  — def — > Operating together to insure that both parties win and that neither party loses. The negotiation to insure that both parties are helped and neither party is hurt.

Co-Operation is the mechanism of action necessary whenever an individual desires to accomplish a task beyond his individual abilities. Imagine, you and a friend are moving a heavy piece of furniture. Neither of you are strong enough to move the furniture by yourself. You decide to co-operate — You decide to operate together during the lifting. You would negotiate to insure the win — to insure being helped.

The conversation might go like this: “Are you ready?”    “Ok.”    “Ready, 1.. 2.. 3.. lift!” and if things are going well that is fine, but if one end gets too heavy then Synergic Co-Operation prohibts loss… “Whoops! Set it down.” This is the synergic veto.

This is the true meaning of co-Operation — the negotiation to insure that both individuals win. And the synergic veto to stop the action if either party is losing. Losing is the only valid use for synergic veto. All synergists are required to immediately veto any action in which they or anyone else would be harmed — any action in which they or anyone else would lose.

No-win Scenarios

Remember, even when you use synergic mechanism you can’t always win. There will times when the contraints facing a synergic group are such that loss is unavoidable. Synergic mechanism strives to make this a rare situation, but loss will occur. If you can’t find a win-win scenario to clear a synergic veto, then synergic mechanism dictates the group must admit and accept the inevitability of loss. When a No-Win situation occurs, the synergic group shifts its focus to finding that action or solution that will minimize the loss. And then, whatever the loss is, it must be shared equally.

In synergy, we are one. In synergy are equal. In synergy we strive to win together. But if we are forced to lose, then we will lose together — this means we will all share equally in the loss.

Synergic Equality

The basic unit of synergic organization is a synergic group organized as heterarchy. All members of a synergic heterarchy are equal. They share equal responsibility for the actions chosen by the group. They share equal authority in the process of choosing those actions. When individuals work together in synergic relationship to a accomplish a common goal. They are considered as a single system.

When individuals work together in synergic relationship, new abilities, skills, talents, etc., emerge as a part of that relationship, that are not there when the individuals work separately. The individuals working in synergic group are more efficient, more productive, more creative, and more intelligent, than they are when working separately. The result of their synergy is that they create “more” together than they could create apart. This “more” is Haskell’s “Co-Operators’ surplus”.

When individuals work together in synergic relationship, they equally contribute to the synergic emergents, and will share equally in the Co-Operators’ surplus. Haskell’s “Co-Operators Surplus” is property and it is owned equally by all who synergized within the synergic group to create it. Within a synergic group all members commit to the Six Tenets of Synergic Equality.

1) In synergy, I am ONE with my associates.

2) In synergy, I am MORE with my asscociates than by myself.

3) In synergy, I am EQUAL to all my associates.

4) In synergy when we WIN, I will win MORE with my associates than by myself and I will share equally in the GAINS.

5) In synergy, when we LOSE, I will lose LESS with my associates than by myself and I will share equally in the LOSSES.

6) In synergy, we will win together or lose together, but we are TOGETHER.

SYNERGY — Working Together

In synergic relationship individuals continue negotiating to insure the win, In synergic relationship, all players are focused on winning. Everyone is seeking help. The game calls for only winners, there is no need for loss. Each player is expected and encouraged to veto any suggested plan wherein they would lose. It is of primary importance in synergic relationship to veto all loss positions. Failure to do so instantly shifts the relationship back to adversary, with the immediate return of conflict. In contrast, since there are no losers in synergic relationships, there is also no conflict. And because obtaining help by helping others attracts the highest quality help, real winners seeks synergic help. Seek always synergic help by making sure that those who help you also win. Be sure they understand how their helping you will also help them. Use the following approach to help you succeed.

Whenever you encounter conflict in a potential helper, they are struggling to avoid loss. This means they believe they will lose by helping you.

1) Analyze the relationship, if your potential helper is really losing, then modify the plan so they will win. To proceed without modifying your plan will only continue conflict and get you only the lowest quality help.

2) If the potential helper simply misunderstands, and in fact he really does win, then explain why he misunderstands, or fill in the information as to how he wins. When he knows he will win by helping you — he will immediately seek co-Operation.

TRUSTING — Synergic Attitude

The most powerful strategy one can use in our present world then is to seek synergic relationship. But survival requires you to avoid individuals comitted to adversary relationships. They too, are seeking to make you help them — the adversary way needs losers.

Synergists are sometimes mistaken by adversary players as weak adversaries. This is not the case. A good synergist immediately notices any loss, and will seek co-operation. If relationship where both parties win cannot be negotiated, then the synergist will break off a relationship with the committed adversary.

Synergists don’t fight or flight; they communicate and negotiate. They understand to fight or flight is to abandon the synergic way for instant conflict — for instant hurt — for instant loss. The synergic individual desires always to win. He seeks synergic relationship to increase his chances of winning.

Anytime, the synergist is not winning, he seeks to renegotiate. If he is unable to co-Operate, he chooses not to conflict. He simply ends the relationship with the least possible loss. He lives the attitude of the good synergist. I am a helper, and therefore I will help you, and trust you to help me. I will seek to help all my fellow humans, but my resources are limited, and in the long run, I must help those who help me.

Avoiding Ultimatums

Ultimatum is an adversary condition when the stronger forces the weaker to lose. This can occur between two individuals or between two nations. For example, let us assume that two individuals decide to help each other — that is they decide to work together — to form an “us”. These individuals will discover their individual preferences are constrained by their joint life. Because they share resources, they can’t both live in their favorite city, or in their favorite house, or own their favorite automobile, unless by chance they have identical favorites. The “us” is formed to gain the power and advantage of interdependence. Interdependence’s “division of labor” improves the standard of living for both, but the price for the higher standard of living is that the choices of both individuals are constrained by the needs and wants of the other.

In the adversary relationships, we experience this constraint as the ultimatum. The ultimatum is an opportunity to lose. You can lose-a-little or you can lose-a-lot, but you will lose.

Imagine, a husband comes home from work. He says to his wife,

“Well, I lost my job today. I have had it with the bay area. We are going to move to Los Angeles, there are good jobs there.” His wife counters, “But, I don’t like Los Angeles. The kids and I will lose, if we have to move to Los Angeles.” The husband plays the trump card. “Well you can either go to Los Angeles or you can get a divorce. Its up to you, but I’m moving to L.A.”

Which do you want? — a broken arm or a broken leg? Your choice is between losing-a-little by moving to a community you don’t like, or losing-a-lot by getting a divorce, but you are going to lose.

Seeking Bindings

Now constraint is placed on any group of individuals who choose to live or work together. This is a law of physics. Constraint does not go away in the synergic relationship. But it remains only a constraint, and not a compromise. In synergic relationship, you are never forced to lose. You, in fact, are encouraged and expected to veto all losses. The only path the two of you agree to walk is one in which you both win. In synergic relationship there is no loss. You may win-a-lot or you may win-a-little, but you will win.

The synergic alternative to the ultimatum is called the binding. It is the contract that results from the negotiation to insure the win — co-Operation. It is the contract establishing a relationship in which you both win in which you both are helped.

Imagine, our husband coming home who enjoys synergic relationship with his wife. “Honey, I got laid off today, I have really had it with the bay area. I just can’t stay here anymore. I feel like I’m losing.” “Well, where do you want to go?” “Los Angeles, I hear there are good jobs down there.” “No, the kids and I would lose in Los Angeles. How about Denver?” “Okay, I could live with that. Let me check the job market tomorrow.”

In synergic relationship there is no loss. You may win-a-lot or you may win-a-little, but you will win.

Life Utilizes Synergic Consensus

Today, mind and brain scientists have made enormous progress in understanding how the human brain works. There has been many surprises in these recent advances. But the biggest shocker is that the brain doesn’t decide what to do. Decision making is not controlled centrally in the brain. The mind-brain appears to act as a coordination and consensus system for meeting all the needs of the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. The brain doesn’t decide to eat. The cells of the body decide to eat, the brain coordinates their activity and carries out the consensus will.

Our human brain stores the gathered information from the body’s sensing of its environment, the brain presents opportunities for action reflective of both the sensing of environment and the needs and goals of the 40,000,000,000,000 cells it serves. The brain is not the leader of the body, it is the follower of the body. It is a system that matches needs of the body with its sensing of opportunities to meet these needs by action within the environment. The brain is a ‘synergic government’ that truly serves its constituents — the cells, tissues, and organs that make up the human body. The body is governed by unanimous consensus and has survived millions of years.

The apparent ‘I’ is not real. It is really a ‘we’. We humans have mistaken the self-organization of synergic consensus for the directed organization of an ego decider.

If the human body can using unanimous rule democracy and synergic consensus can organize and coordinate the actions of 40,000,000,000,000 cells so totally that we identify the whole organism as a single idividual, then we humans should be able to use these same mechanisms to organize our species and solve our human problems.

To be continued …

Front Page

Friday, April 4th, 2008

I am scheduled to speak at the  UnMONEY Convergence on April 14, 15 & 16th in Seattle, Washington. The subject of one of my talks will be ORTEGRITY.  Today, I feature the followup in that original series. … Upon returning to California from my meeting with Dr. Coulter, I had a new focus. I knew a lot about Capitalism most of which I had learned as a student of Andrew J. Galambos. I was very clear about hierarchy. But I was a novice when it came to heterarchy. I immediately set out to find out as much about heterarchy as I could. In the early 1980’s, the best business organizations in the world were to be found in Japan. And, I soon discovered the secret of their success was their mastery of heterarchy.

HETERARCHY: The Secret of Japan, Inc.

Timothy Wilken, MD

In 1983, the major success of Japan, Inc. was serving to focus international attention on their ways of doing business. The Japanese were employing organizing strategies that produced the highest productivity and quality of work-life in the industrial world.

Their success appeared to threaten the viability of many American corporations. This threat was leading to the careful examination of the Japanese way by numerous individuals.

Their findings revealed the major focus of the Japanese was long-term and wholistic. This was in striking contrast to most American corporations where the focus was short-term and particulate.

As the world’s business corporations sought to compete and survive in the late 70s and early 80s, they sought the most powerful organizing strategies available. Who would be right — the Japanese, or the Americans?

Should businesses have wholistic concerns or particulate concerns? Did the recent major success of the Japanese prove they had the right system?

What about innovation, creativity, and originality? How do they fare under the Japanese way? Many American business leaders were forced to decide without really being able to predict the effect of their decisions.

William Ouchi is best known for his work, Theory Z, which was published in 1981 when American businesses were still scratching their collective heads in trying to understand the Japanese advantage. Dr. Ouchi pointed out that advantage, which was revealed to be a Japanese commitment to democratic leadership that resulted in increased quality, increased productivity and decreased costs while making workers at all levels full partners in business.  He contrasted the American and the Japanese ways in the following chart. 



Wholistic Concern Particulate Concern
Collective Decision Making Individual Decision Making
Collective Responsibility  Individual Responsibility
Implicit Control Mechanisms Explicit Control Mechanisms
Lifetime Employment Short-term Employment
Non-Specialized Career Paths Specialized Career Paths
Slow Evaluation & Promotion Rapid Evaluation & Promotion

Economic Survival

And how long could American businesses afford to wait before deciding? Ouchi said, “it takes a minimum of two years to convert to a type z company, and some companies might require four or six years to see effects.”

The success of the Japanese could be explained by synergic system analysis. As I examined the two ways from the point of view of synergy science, I discovered the American way was dominated by hierarchy, while the Japanese way was heavily influenced by the heterarchy.

Other-Directed Management

Nearly all of America’s businesses employed other-directed management. Other-directed management is when “A” tells “B” what to do, and often how to do it as well.

Recall that hierarchy is a vertical system with many levels of organization. Those with greatest responsibility and authority occupy the higher levels. Hierarchy creates a feeling of difference or individuality. Individuals within the system see each other vertically, “He is over me.” “I work under John.” “He is way up in the company” “She is the lowest one on the totem pole.” All too often individuals within a hierarchy experience feelings of inferiority. This is not surprising in a system based on superior  and inferior levels. In humans, feelings of inferiority produce hostility. In the jungle, being inferior was often synonymous with death.

This adversary reality was also experienced in the cave, and the tribe, and the feudal state , and is experienced in nearly all the corporations, institutions, governments, and militaries of earth.

Recent mind-brain science reveals that hostility produces a ‘down shift’ within the human mind to a very primitive mode of thinking — the SURVIVE MODE. This “mode of thinking” originated in the jungle, and is the master of fighting and fleeing.

Since the inception of hierarchy its constant companion has always been conflict. This now seems to be its primary limitation. One significant contributor to conflict is other-directed management.

Some corporations are seeking to move away from other-directed management through use of “delegation of responsibility”. Here, managers are still told what to do, but not how to do it. They have more freedom to self-direct. But even within systems with “delegation of responsibility”, the price of failure is usually termination or at the very least stagnation of ones career. This produces fear of failure with resultant conflict.

Conflict — Preparing to Fight or Flight

The SURVIVE MODE of the human mind is the real “king” of the jungle. We humans are clearly the dominate form of life on this planet. We have successfully fought and fled  our way from the African savannah to the top of the modern corporate board room.

The survive mode is quite effective for physical conflict, with its extremes of rage and terror, but highly ineffective within modern organizations. The survive mode is our most primitive way of thinking. It was for survival emergencies in the jungle. Humans thinking in this mode are highly inefficient and non-productive, they lose access to almost all of what we call “human intelligence”. Any conflict can produce hostility within a human, and hostility always shifts humans into the survive mode.

Synergy science has identified conflict as the major obstacle to efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life within all organizations. While Hierarchy clearly has some major strengths, its problems with conflict create the greatest of liabilities. If human organizations are to survive into the 21st century, it is crucial that conflict be eliminated.

             conflict        :      friction
     ___________        _________
      organizations   :    machinery

Synergic system analysis reveals that the major secret of the Japanese way is the reduction of conflict they have achieved within their organizations.

Synergy Increases Efficiency

Synergic system analysis reveals that efficiency within a system is a direct variable of the type of relationship that exists between the parts that make up the whole system.

In other words, it is how these parts relate with one another that will absolutely determine the success of the whole system.

Recall that adversary relationships are bad for me, bad for you, or bad for both of us. Neutral relationships have no effect on you or me. But synergic relationships are good for you and good for me — WIN-WIN.

The synergic relationship maximizes efficiency. Neutral relationships significantly limit efficiency, and adversary relationships allow no possibility of efficiency.

Synergy science reveals that conflict is an indirect variable of efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life. Using win-win relationships within organization is like applying grease to machinery.

It is by making win-win relationships that we will form systems in which the sum of the whole system is much more than the sum of the parts. This “much more” results in what Haskell called the cooperator’s reward.

If we humans desire a share of the cooperator’s reward, then, we must learn to create win-win relationships between all the individuals within our organiztions and to reduce conflict where ever we may find it.

Eliminating Conflict

I pause here to mention one apparently different point of view. Recently some business writers have  been singing the praises of conflict. They advise “managers” to learn to creatively manage conflict, rather than to try to eliminate it.

However a closer examination reveals that these business writer’s define “managing conflict” as creating “win-win relationships”. Whereas synergy science defines the creation of “win-win relationships” as “eliminating conflict”. So whether we refer to the creation of “win-win relationships” as “eliminating conflict” or as simply “managing conflic”, we would all agree, it is good to create win-win relationships.

The Japanese clearly have some cultural advantages in creating win-win relationships. First of all, they are a very crowded people with over a hundred million individuals living within a geographic area no larger than a single one of our states. This crowding has produces a strong force toward a cooperative life style, and the Japanese do strongly seek consensus. They also are the only nation to have experienced nuclear war, this resulted in a people deeply committed to the cooperative way.

Some Americans seem to want to explain away the Japanese success by pointing to obscure genetic and cultural differences, as if in so doing they will somehow invalidate the Japanese success. Their success will not be invalidated. The Japanese success results not from obscure genetic and cultural traits, but from simply reducing the conflict within their organizations.

And the most powerful strategy presently known for reducing conflict is heterarchy.

The Japanese Way

The Japanese reduce conflict by using heterarchy in their systems. In many ways, the basic structure of Japanese business appears no less hierarchical than our own. However, the Japanese have introduced heterarchy into their systems in at least three significant forms.

First of all, the Japanese use “quality circles”. Management and workers all sit at the same level in advisory “heterarchies”. This allows the managers to be very aware of the attitudes of those who will be implementing decisions. Conflict can be discovered and eliminated effectively within the heterarchy. All participants of “quality circles” feel they are on a full and equal basis to discuss problems and recommend changes.

Secondly, while much of the Japanese work day is spent in hierarchical organization not unlike Americans, the Japanese business day does not end at 5 pm. The mandatory socializing which occurs every night after work is structured as heterarchy. This provides another opportunity to reduce conflict and many business decisions are made in this social setting.

And thirdly, while hierarchy prevails in terms of organizational responsibility, the Japanese manager adopts a more open heterarchical style. He welcomes his worker’s inputs, and encourages them to participate in the decision making process.

This is a move away from other-directed management towards more self-directed management. This is accompanied by an almost instantaneous decrease in conflict.

If we are to learn anything from the Japanese, it should be that reduction of conflict always produces a significant increase in efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life.

My study of Japanese business opened my eyes to the power of heterarchy. It is now obvious that all human organizations must master the power of the heterarchy. However, hierarchy is not the villain in this story. For American busnisesses to throw out hierarchy in a rush to embrace the Japanese way could be a worse mistake than to make no change at all. American busnesses are the masters at hierarchy, and here the Japanese can learn something from them.

The discovery of the Organizational Tensegrity reveals that human organizations require a system of organization that transcends both heterarchy and hierarchy.

At one and the same time the Organizational Tensegrity is neither a heterarchy nor a hierarchy, and simultaneously it is both a heterarchy and a hierarchy. There is a third alternative to either heterarchy or hierarchy.

The synergic way produces win-win relationships between all members of the system by transcending both heterarchy and hierarchy. This is the mechanism that allows the Organizational Tensegrity to eliminate all internal conflict.


The Organizational Tensegrity can then be defined as that “complex organizational system that creates a balance of both heterarchy and hierarchy to produce win-win relationships among all members of the system and simultaneously eliminate all internal conflict”.

Synergy science teaches us the both-and point of view. Systems are not wholes. Systems are not parts. Systems are both wholes and parts. A human organization is not just a community, it is not just the individuals within the community. A human organization is both a community and the individuals within that community. We humans are usually misled by our great propensity to “either/or” thinking. This is not a question of “either heterarchy or hierarchy”.

An Organizational Tensegrity is highly flexible being able to move between heterarchy and hierarchy easily and frequently. This ability of the organizational tensegrity, to instantly shift between these two strategies, allows it to gain the strengths of both while avoiding their weaknesses altogether.

Heterarchy is best able to provide the needs of the whole — the needs of community, while hierarchy is best able to meet the goals of the parts — the goals of the individuals. And the win-win relationship serves as the binding that holds the system together.

Which way for Humanity? We humans find ourselves once again at the crossroads, which way shall we choose?

I believe our future does not lie in the Japanese way of heterarchy, nor in the American way of hierarchy. I believe it lies in the third alternative — the synergic way of the Organizational Tensegrity. In the years that have passed since I first described the organizational tensegrity, I have contracted the term to simply Ortegrity.

By the end of the 1990’s, the Japanese Miracle had faded. While they still were/are making some good products, they had lost their advantage. Why? What went wrong. … I recently discovered an answer at the School of Cooperative Individualism.

Japan’s Wrong Turn

Bill Totten

When Japan’s economy was booming in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Japan’s leaders had the following philosophy:

1. The PURPOSE or GOAL of a society is the happiness of its members; the purpose of goal of Japan then was the happiness of Japanese citizens.

2. Companies have two roles in society: (1) To provide products and services that contribute to citizens’ happiness, and (2) To provide jobs so citizens could pay for those products and services.

3. Profit should NOT be a company’s goal. Not even one of its goals! A company should only make enough profit to continue as a viable business; that is, to cover the R&D and plant & facility investments it needs to stay viable. If a company has a chance to make more profits than that, it should refrain from making them and, instead, either sell its products and services at lower prices, provide higher wages and benefits to its employees, or both.

That was the philosophy that made Japan Number 1, the philosophy of the Japanese Miracle, the philosophy that created the greatest economic growth (and social gains) in the history of this planet.

Most of those Japanese leaders, who received Confucian educations prior to 1945, had retired by around 1980 and were succeeded by people educated in the system imposed by General Douglas MacArthur’s Occupation after 1945. They have destroyed Japan’s Miracle, and are ruining Japan’s economy, with the same philosophy that has knocked the United States from its economic and social pinnacle down to third-world status:

1. Economic Darwinism (free competition): Society is a jungle where the strong have the right to take what they can from the weak. Government regulations hindering this should be relaxed or eliminated.

2. The role of companies is to make as much profit as possible as fast as possible. The main techniques are: (1) Advertise heavily to dupe citizens into excessive consumption and spending, and (2) Treat employees like coal, oil and other resources; get the maximum production from the lowest possible expenditure on resources; if your fellow citizens are too expensive, take your factories to places where you can hire cheaper human resources.

3. If speculating on stocks and bonds is a faster way to make big profits than researching and developing new products, then gamble your R&D budget on stocks and bonds. If speculating in land is a faster way to make big profits than increasing the productivity of workers, then gamble your plant & facility budget on land.

4. Use your profits to buy politicans who will reduce your taxes — reduce progressive taxes on high incomes; reduce corporate income taxes; create loopholes and tax breaks available only to rich people and large corporations who can afford expensive lawyers and accountants; reduce taxes on inheritances, land speculation, stock and bond speculation; and so on.

5. When this creates huge government deficits, do the following: (1) Make more money by loaning (at interest) the money the government needs to cover the deficits it created by reducing your taxes; (2) Brainwash the citizenry into ‘privatization’ of society’s assets — such as railroads, telephone companies, NASA. These, of course, became valuable because they were built with everyone’s tax money and protected my government monopolies. But when they’re privatized (sold off) only rich people and rich corporations can afford them. (3) Hector the government into reducing the deficits (resulting from cutting your taxes) remaining after ‘privatization’ by cutting services to the average citizen — that is, cutting spending on health, education, welfare and similar services. (4) Get the government to raise excise, social security, and other taxes that fall mostly on citizens who earn most of their incomes from working and must spend most of those incomes on consumption.

6. Use your advertising clout with Business Week, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and other media that get most of their revenues and profits from advertising to brainwash the general public into submitting docilely to this rape and plunder; if possible, convince them that it’s in their own best interests.

Japan’s MacArthur-educated colonials have used this philosophy since the early 1980s to plunder Japan’s economy.

Bill Totten is an American born USC grad who runs a business in Japan, where he lives, has married, and raised a family. His mind has been greatly stimulated by rubbing two cultures together, not to mention rubbing together business leadership with a social conscience. His statement … is so cogent, I thought you would find it useful and challenging, as I do. — Mason Gaffney, professor of economics, University of California

To be continued …

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Saturday, March 29th, 2008

I am scheduled to speak at the UnMONEY Convergence on April 14, 15 & 16th in Seattle, Washington. The subject of one of my talks will be ORTEGRITY.

Students of synergic science learn that there are three types of humans to be found in our present world–Adversaries, Neutralists and Synergists. Which type you are depends on what you believe about how the world works.

Adversaries believe there is not enough for everyone and only the physically strong will survive. They believe humans are coercively dependent on others, and they best understand the language of force.

Neutralists believe there is enough for everyone, if only you work hard enough and take care of yourself. They believe humans are financial independent and should be self-sufficient unless they are too lazy or defective. They best understand the language of money.

And, finally a new type of human is still emerging. Synergists believe there is enough for everyone but only if we work together and act responsibly. They believe humans are interdependent and can only obtain sufficiency by working together as community. Synergists best understand the language of love.

But, to be successful in our present world, the synergist must understand all three languages and know when to use them. Synergists must sometimes use the language of force, and sometimes the language of money, it depends on whom they are talking to. However, when synergists are seeking allies—when synergists are seeking to build community—they must speak the language of love.

We believe that you should, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”What is it that most of us want others to do unto us? Synergic scientists answer this question as follows: Help and support others as you would wish them to help and support you.  Or, more simply, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” 

Synergists are trying to heal the wounds inflected by those who don’t understand how the world could work. This then is the essential challenge to the synergists. Can we work together and act responsibly in time to save our ourselves on this planet? … Only by helping each other.

Today’s world is dominated by Aversaries and Neutralists.  The best of our present organizational systems are Neutral. What would a Synergic organizational system look like?

ORTEGRITY — Discovery in North Carolina

Timothy Wilken, MD

Independent of me, another synergic scientist N. Arthur Coulter, Jr. had been seeking to develop an ideal system of organization for human beings. He defined ideal as that system that would maximize both freedom, and quality of life for all within the system. He was the author of SYNERGETICS: An Adventure in Human Development. I discovered him by purchasing his book based on its title from a science catalog. I was so impressed with his book that I took a chance and wrote him. We soon developed a long distance friendship.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Dr. N. Arthur Coulter is a synergic science pioneer. He began searching for a better way for humanity over 50 years ago. Coulter had realized that with the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Japan, humanity had reached a crossroad. That our weapons were now of such power that they threatened us all with extinction. He concluded:

“What is needed is nothing less than a major evolution of the human mind, which would give the rational, humane part of the mind a much greater control over the emotional part.”

Coming out the Army at the end of 1945, Coulter switched his focus from Mathematics and entered Harvard Medical School. He said he needed to learn all he could about the human brain and mind. Thirty years later, he was Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. But whenever he wasn’t teaching medical students, his focus was on understanding human thinking and human relationships.

In March of 1983, I traveled from my home on the west coast of Northern California to meet with Dr. Coulter. From Chapel Hill, we traveled by car a small private retreat he had built on a lake in nearby Virginia. It was a beautiful and very quiet place ideal for thinking and corroboration. He called it Synergia.

The purpose of our meeting was two-fold, first to share our research findings about human relationships, behavior, and thinking, and then to design or at least establish criteria for designing a “conflict-free” organizational system for humankind. As synergic scientists, we both believed an ideal system would be based on win-win relationships.  

As our discussions began, I felt sure the system would be a form of capitalism. I had studied theoretical capitalism for a number of years.

One captitalistic theorist, Andrew J. Galambos had proposed an advanced capitalistic system which was non-coercive. Its underlying premise was to eliminate and prohibit loss. Galambos’ proposed system did not insure win-win relationships, but it promised to eliminate losing relationships. Galambos’ system was a type of SuperNeutrality. It allowed win-draw, draw-win, draw-draw, or win-win. It was committed to the protection of property. But, the definition of property was expanded to include your life, freedom, ideas, and actions. Galambos’Capitalism was a much more powerful form than exists today. With its absolute prohibition of injuring others, it can be thought of as Moral Capitalism. Its tenets included the absolute protection of property, individual freedom, and total responsibility.

Galambos’s “SuperNeutrality — Moral Capitalism” retained many of Neutrality — Capitalism’s value systems. In 1983, I shared most of these values. However, even then I knew there was an even better way possible. I felt Galambos’s system could be modified into the synergic system we were seeking. I envisioned the ideal system would be a form of Synergic Capitalism — win-win capitalism.

As a synergy scientist, Coulter was sensitive to the wholistic view — a view he associated with theoretical socialism. He felt the needs of the species were more important than the needs of the individual. As the Star Trek character Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Unaware of Galambos’s work, Coulter assumed all capitalistic structures had to be based on win/lose dynamics, and therefore he was opposed to them on principle. Coulter envisioned a form of Synergic Socialism — win-win socialism.

Stalemate — Warring Ideologies

Socialism and capitalism are often polarizing words in our culture. And, Coulter and I also had our hidden assumptions. We discussed the issues long into that first night. And yet as adaptive and open as Coulter and I might hope to be, we were starting very far apart. 

Over breakfast the next morning, we both shared our concern over the risk of a stalemate. It seemed our starting premises were exclusionary. The ideal system couldn’t be both capitalistic and socialistic. Capitalistic — Socialism or Socialistic — Capitalism? It just didn’t work.

Above all else Coulter and I were committed to the scientific way. As scientists, we knew all beliefs were only models of how Nature works. That all models were only temporary, even the best were theoretically obsolete on the day they are made. All models would someday to be replaced with better ones. Newton’s model of Universe served us well for over two hundred years, but Einstein’s model of Universe replaced it all the same. Everyday somewhere on the planet a human being is discovering something new about Nature that will eventually change all of our opinions. We both agreed that all present political systems were adversary systems. That all present systems were and are coercive  systems. Our committment to synergy’s win-win principle required that Coulter and I be apolitical. We could not endorse any political system. Our interest in theoretical capitalism or theoretical socialism related only to their underlying patterns of organization.

We also agreed that finding the ideal organizing strategy for humankind was important if not critical. Neither of us wanted a statemate. We both committed to openly considering the other’s point of view, and further pledged a willingness to modify our positions based on the power of each other’s arguments. But after hours of discussion, I still believed the ideal system would be a form of synergic capitalism, and Coulter believed it must be some form of synergic socialism.

Korzybski’s General Semantics

We decided to formalize our discussions by utilizing the powerful communication science — General Semantics. Alfred Korzybski originated General Semantics to take the misunderstanding out of communication. He is quoted as saying:

“There can be no disagreements only misunderstandings. We are all looking at the same universe, in the end we must agree.”

I hoped Korzybski was right, and that Coulter and I would somehow discover we were only misunderstanding each other. But I had my doubts, capitalism and socialism — could they ever be resolved into a single system? No, it had to be either one or the other.

I hoped General Semantics would lead us to an answer. If it was to be socialism, then I was willing to change my position. But Coulter, would have to prove he had a better system.

After breakfast, I began by presenting the basic postulates underlying theoretical capitalism and its underlying relationship to hierarchical strategy, and then Coulter presented the basic postulates of theoretical socialism and its underlying relationship to heterarchical strategy. First I would teach him, then he would teach me. We alternated back and forth.

By late in the afternoon of our second day, we had both learned a lot. I was beginning to see the power and value of heterarchy, and Coulter was discovering the power and value of hierarchy. Both of us had held a number of false assumptions about the other’s position. However no real progress was made towards our ideal system. And, we still found ourselves butting heads over the terms capitalism and socialism. It seemed both of us carried strong emotional opinions about the terms in our unconscious. Our strong emotional attitudes seemed to block any hope for a solution in the little time we had available. If we didn’t change our focus, hope for any meaningful solution would be lost. Because our unconscious attitudes were sabotaging our efforts, we agreed to drop the terms capitalism and socialism completely from our discussion.

Beyond Capitalism & Socialism

Coulter and I both agreed that what was really important was to create a system that produced only win-win relationships. If we succeeded at that, then whether it was “capitalistic” or “socialistic” might not really matter. At this point, we agreed to change our focus to “hierarchy” and “heterarchy”. We began seeking a unique system that would transcend both capitalism and socialism — perhaps we could call it simply synergism.

I began by discussing the underlying structure of capitalism. I felt that even if the ideal system wasn’t capitalistic it would still have to retain hierarchy.

Hierarchy is a vertical system with many levels of organization. Those with greatest responsibility and authority occupy the higher levels. Hierarchy creates a feeling of difference or individuality. Individuals within the system see each other vertically, “He is over me.” “I work under John.” “He is way up in the company” “She is the lowest one on the totem pole.”

Hierarchy is humanity’s oldest organizing strategy. It was born in the jungle, was nurtured in the cave, grew up in the tribe, blossomed with feudalism, and today dominates nearly all the corporations, institutions, governments, and militaries of earth. Hierarchy is often experienced as the chain of command or pecking order. It is most formalized in military combat. 

In business organizations, hierarchy is often experienced as an extension of the personalities of those individuals who founded the company. The operating policies of the company are a reflection of the values of the individual founders. Individuals with similar values are often selected to continue the company. So we see the primary concerns of a hierarchy are the goals of those few individuals that control it.

This is why American companies have individual decision making, and individual responsibility. Hierarchy has a particulate focus because goals are particular to the individuals who create them.

Hierarchy’s focus on the individual does lead to the stimulation of individual innovation, creativity, and originality. This leads to the development of a few individual stars who tend to dominate the company. Individuality has its strengths — one of which is rapid decision making. One individual can always decide much quicker than a group. I highly valued the individual and felt reliance on the best individuals had to be good for the whole group. Now it was Coulter’s turn to speak for heterarchy.

Coulter was just as sure the ideal system must be a heterarchy. His commitment to heterarchy was supported by research findings which revealed human relationships are optimized when humans feel they are valued at the same level.

The primary organizing strategy of theoretical socialism is heterarchy, this is in sharp distinction to political socialism which is usually hierarchical.

Heterarchy is a very different breed of organizational strategy than hierarchy. It is a horizontal system with only one level of organization. All are equal within the heterarchy. Individuals within the system see each other as  being on the same level. “We are a team.” “Its like a family rather than a job.” “We all respect each other.”

Heterarchy is ideal for communication and discussion, because it  allows for the sharing of responsibility and authority within an informal environment. Task assignments following open discussions, produce more cooperative working relationships. In a setting where associates feel valued, openness and integrity emerge. Individuals often take much greater roles in the tasks of their departments. In this setting, there is less conflict, and this usually results in improvement in efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life.

Heterarchy creates a feeling of oneness — a feeling of community. Members of a heterarchy strongly identify with the whole system. Morale and espirit de corps are optimized. Because heterarchy is highly inclusive, all feel that they are a part of the system. This is in strong counter distinction to hierarchy’s exclusiveness. Individuals within heterarchy tend to protect the system. Individuals within hierarchy often ignore the system, and sometimes even attack it. The wholistic focus of heterarchy is on the needs of the whole organization. This wholistic focus leads to collective decision making and collective responsibility.

Decision making in heterarchy is slower. It takes time to gain the consensus of all the individuals within the heterarchy. However, implementation is much more rapid because the attitudes of those responsible for implementation have been considered in the decision making process. This not only eliminates conflict, but also encourages all members to feel responsible for the successful implementation of the decision. Anyone who has ever built a house knows it is much less expensive to erase lines on a paper, than to demolish mortar, brick, and stone.

As we focused more tightly, our discussions intensified, and to our mutual surprise we began to discover much agreement. Both hierarchy and heterarchy were emerging as valid strategies. They could both be seen to have major utility. They were very different, but equally valid methods of organizing. Heterarchy seemed better for meeting the needs of the whole system, while hierarchy seemed better for accomplishing the goals of the individuals within the system.

Heterarchy reduces conflict by seeking consensus. This appears to be the secret of its success. This is also why we see slow decision making, but rapid implementation. Hierachy produces rapid decision making, but slow implementation. Individual decision making always occurs with minimal knowledge of the attitudes of those who will be responsible for implementation. This lack of awareness produces inevitable conflict which slows and limits the success of implementation.

Neither seemed universally superior, heterarchy worked best in some areas, but hierarchy clearly worked better in other areas. But despite our agreement, if our two positions were found to be equally valid, then which one should we use? Our discussion of heterarchy and hierarchy did not trigger the emotional reactions that discussing socialism and capitalism had, but we seemed no closer to our goal than we had the first day. Heterarchy and hierarchy seemed to be exclusionary as capitalism and socialism. It had to be either heterarchy or hierarchy, it could’t be both.

Exhausted, we decided to break. Coulter invited me to take a walk along the lake that bordered his property. For some minutes we walked in silence, both of our minds grateful for the rest. Eventually, we reached a pleasant spot beside the lake and we sat down.

A few sailboats could be seen on the lake chasing the spring breeze. The scene was pleasantly reassuring, no sign of the troubled world that had prompted our quest for a new way for humankind. I thought of all the years I had been seeking a better way. It seemed so long ago that this journey had started. Even as a child, I had believed in a world without conflict. Coulter too seemed quietly sad, he too had been searching for a long time. His journey had begun even before my birth. I lay back and closed my eyes. The noise of the water gently laping against the shoreline began to soothe my troubled mind.

Beyond Right & Wrong

Later, as we lay by the lake, Coulter told me of a powerful thinking tool he had developed:

“When I find I am confused, I test the idea by placing it in the following multiple-point-of-view rotary.

“The “idea” is right.
“The “idea” is wrong.
“The “idea” is neither right nor wrong.
“The “idea” is both right and wrong.

“First, I think of all the examples of when and where the idea is right, then of all the examples of when and where the idea is wrong. Then I look for examples where or when the idea doesn’t seem to apply, and finally I think of examples when the idea seems paradoxical — both right and wrong simultaneously. I have used this tool many times, and I have always understood the idea much better because of it.”

After resting a few more minutes we slowly walked back to his cabin. Following a break for supper, we resumed our discussions. We continued to learn from each other, but agreement seemed no nearer.

Alone, in my room preparing for bed, I took Coulter’s advice and jotted down his rotary.

Hierarchy is right.
Hierarchy is wrong.
Hierarchy is neither right nor wrong.
Hierarchy is both right and wrong.

Heterarchy is right.
Heterarchy is wrong.
Heterarchy is neither right nor wrong.
Heterarchy is both right and wrong.

As I lay down to sleep the rotary kept dancing in my head. Coming into our meeting, I had never felt so sure. How could so many things that seemed certain suddenly become so uncertain?

How could things be so right and so wrong all at the same time? What is the value of our science, if it can’t answer our questions?

And tomorrow, was our last day.

Last Day

The third morning, we began our discussions on mind-brain science. This has been a primary focus of both Coulter’s and my research for a number of years. Here we found an abundance of agreement. By midday we had reached a number of accords concerning human thinking. As we broke for lunch, we were pleased with this progress.

As this was scheduled to be our last day of meeting, we agreed to try for the ideal system once more after lunch. Coulter was still committed to heterarcy, but I had opened his eyes to hierarchy. Likewise my eyes were now open to heterarchy, although I still leaned toward hierarchy.

The night before I had completed outlining the operation of a hierarchy, so it was Coulter’s turn to talk. Coulter began to describe his ideal heterarchical system in terms of decision making and project execution.

Coulter’s voice modulated with excitement as he described the “heterarchy with  mission teams”. He had imagined a system of associates that were organized as a heterarchy. All members would sit on the same level as equals. No one would have more authority than anyone else. All problems and projects would be discussed at length in the heterarchy. All individuals would serve as information sources for each other, however participation was always voluntary.

Coulter leaned forward, “Now any individual would be free to declare a mission. Then other members of the heterarchy could examine the mission and participate on a negotiated basis in the creation of a mission team. If a declared mission found no voluntary allies, it would die for lack of support.”

“What would be the structure of the mission teams?”, I asked.

“The teams will be organized any way they like, remember it’s all voluntary. The individuals of the heterarchy will decide how they want to organize themselves, or even if they want to participate.

“Only those missions adequately supported by the heterarchy could occur. All involved would be voluntarily participating. Committment would be 100% . When a mission was over the team would return to the heterarchy.”

“Could the mission team be a hierarchy?”, I asked.


Coulter paused momentarily stunned. He seemed deep in thought, then he relaxed with a sigh and responded, “I had never really thought about the structure of the mission team. Yes, I think you are right. The structure of the mission team would be a hierarchy.” He paused again, deep in thought, then continued, “But with an important difference from many hierarchies because everything is voluntary.”

I realized he was describing negotiated hierarchy, a powerful form of hierarchy that served a vital role in Galambos’s non-coercive capitalism. As Coulter continued talking, I saw the heterarchy in my mind’s eye begin to move. First, there was the heterarchy, then one member of the heterarchy declared a mission. The heterarchy suddenly configures itself into a mission hierarchy — a negotiated hierarchy. During the mission it functions as a hierarchy. Each member standing where he agreed to stand, performing those tasks he volunteered to perform. The system was strongly self-organizing. Once the mission was completed, the hierarchy was abandoned the members return to the heterarchy.

Heterarchy becoming hierarchy becoming heterarchy becoming hierarchy becoming heterarchy becoming hierarchy and on and on and on………….

The model danced in my head. Always a heterarchy, occasionally a hierarchy. The heterarchy was the continuous pull — always pulling information. The hierarchy a discontinuous push — only occasionally pushing out a mission. Coulter was describing a tensegrity. A tensegrity made up of heterarchy and hierarchy.

Hierarchy is both right and wrong.
Heterarchy is both right and wrong.
Hierarchy is neither right nor wrong.
Heterarchy is neither right nor wrong.

In a flash, Coulter and I had got what we were after. I had been blind to heterarchy and he to hierarchy. But there it was, both strategies in one system. I had not come to North Carolina looking for tensegrities, and Coulter had never even heard of a tensegrity. And yet, his “heterarchy with mission teams” was in fact a tensegrity — a tensegrity with an equal balance of heterarchy and hierarchy.

There are no accidents in Nature and the tensegrity is no exception. This is the way we humans were meant to organize. Life’s most powerful organizing strategy for us is the organizational tensegrity.

To be continued …

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Friday, March 21st, 2008

An interesting read that I found at The Oil Drum.

The Problem of Growth

Jeff Vail

Stuart Staniford proposed a “way forward” for humanity in his article Powering Civilization to 2050. This article proposes an alternative vision: instead of trying to create continual, technological stop-gaps to the demands of growth, we must address the problem of growth head on. Infinite growth is impossible in a finite world–a great deal of economic growth may be possible without a growth in resource consumption, but eventually the notion of perpetual growth is predicated on perpetual increase in resource consumption. This growth in resource consumption causes problems: it brings civilization into direct conflict with our environmental support system. Growth is also one way of improving the standard of living for humanity by creating more economic produce, more material consumption per human. Growth, however, produces very unevenly distributed benefits, and there is little convincing evidence that the poorest, most abused 10% of humanity is actually better off today than the poorest, most abused 10% of past eras. Furthermore, if you accept my statement above that infinite growth is impossible in a finite world, then employing growth today to “solve” our immediate problems incurs the significant moral hazard of pushing the problem—perhaps the greatly exacerbated problem—of addressing growth itself on future generations.

With that in mind, my intent here is to propose one possible means for humanity to directly address the problem of growth itself. I am attempting to take what I see as an inherently pragmatic approach—one that does not rely on the universal cooperation of humanity, nor on the assumption of yet-to-be-developed technologies. My approach to the problem of growth is to stop trying to address its symptoms—overpopulation, pollution, global warming, peak oil—and attempt instead to identify and address the underlying source of the problem.

That source is the hierarchal structure of human civilization. Hierarchy demands growth. Growth is a result of dependency. The solution to the problem of growth, then, is the elimination of dependency. This essay will elaborate on each of those points, and then propose a means to effectively eliminate dependency by creating minimally self-sufficient but interconnected networks that I call Rhizome. It is my hope that this topic, while not directly involving crude oil reserves or some similar topic, will be highly relevant within the context of Peak Oil and Peak Energy. Infinite growth requires, eventually, infinite energy. Assume that we develop a perfect fusion generator, or that we cover the entire surface of the Earth with 100% efficient solar panels. None of this actually solves the problem of growth—it just shifts the burden of dealing with that problem onto our grandchildren, or perhaps even 100 generations from now. It’s easy to take the self-centered perspective that such burden-shifting is acceptable, but I find it fundamentally morally unacceptable. This essay will begin and end with that understanding of morality, and attempt to find a way forward for humanity that balances the quality of life demands of both present and future generations. This essay isn’t about how to find more oil, how to recover more oil, or how to use energy in general more efficiently so that we can keep on growing. It is an opinion piece, not a data-driven scientific paper. It is about living well, now and in the future, individually and collectively, without growth.

I. Hierarchy Must Grow, and is Therefore Unsustainable

Why must hierarchy continually grow and intensify? Within the context of hierarchy in human civilization, there seem to be three separate categories of forces that force growth. I will address them in the order (roughly) that they arose in the development of human civilization:

Human Psychology Drives Growth

Humans fear uncertainty, and this uncertainty drives growth. Human population growth is partially a result of the desire to ensure enough children survive to care for aging parents. Fear also drives humans to accept trade-offs in return for security.

One of the seeds of hierarchy is the desire to join a redistribution network to help people through bad times—crop failures, drought, etc. Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico, is a prime anthropological example of this effect. Most anthropologists agree that the Chaco Canyon dwellings served as a hub for a food redistribution system among peripheral settlements. These peripheral settlements—mostly maize and bean growing villages—would cede surplus food to Chaco. Drought periodically ravaged either the region North or South of Chaco, but rarely both simultaneously. The central site would collect and store surplus, and, when necessary, distribute this to peripheral settlements experiencing crop failures as a result of drought. The result of this system was that the populations in peripheral settlements were able to grow beyond what their small, runoff-irrigated fields would reliably sustain. The periodic droughts no longer checked population due to membership in the redistributive system. The peripheral settlements paid a steep price for this security—the majority of the surplus wasn’t redistributed, but rather supported an aristocratic priest class in Chaco Canyon—but human fear and desire for security made this trade-off possible.

Still today, our fear of uncertainty and desire for stability and security create an imperative for growth. This is equally true of Indian peasants having seven children to ensure their retirement care as it is of rich Western European nations offering incentives for couples to have children in order to maintain their Ponzi-scheme retirements systems. Fear also extends to feelings of family or racial identity, as people all over the world fear being out-bred by rival or neighboring families, tribes, or ethnic groups. This phenomenon is equally present in tribal societies of Africa, where rival ethnic groups understand the need to compete on the level of population, as it is in America, where there is an undercurrent of fear among white Americans that population growth rates are higher among Hispanics Americans.

The Structure of Human Society Selects for Growth

The psychological impetus toward growth results in what I consider the greatest growth-creating mechanism in human history: the peer-polity system. This phenomenon is scale free and remains as true today as it did when hunter-gather tribes first transitioned to agricultural “big-man” groups. Anthropologically, when big-men groups are often considered the first step toward hierarchal organization. When one farmer was able to grow more than his neighbors, he would have surplus to distribute, and these gifts created social obligations. Farmers would compete to grow the greatest surplus, because this surplus equated to social standing, wives, and power. Human leisure time, quite abundant in most ethnological accountings of remnant hunter-gatherer societies, was lost in favor of laboring to produce greater surplus. The result of larger surpluses was that there was more food to support a greater population, and the labors of this greater population would, in turn, produce more surplus. The fact that surplus production equates to power, across all scales, is the single greatest driver of growth in hierarchy.

In a peer-polity system, where many separate groups interact, it was not possible to opt-out of the competition to create more surplus. Any group that did not create surplus—and therefore grow—would be out-competed by groups that did. Surplus equated to population, ability to occupy and use land, and military might. Larger, stronger groups would seize the land, population, and resources of groups that failed in the unending competition for surplus. Within the peer-polity system, there is a form of natural selection in favor of those groups that produce surplus and grow most effectively. This process selects for growth—more specifically, it selects for the institutionalization of growth. The result is the growth imperative.

The Development of Modern Economics & Finance Requires Growth

This civilizational selection for growth manifests in many ways, but most recently it resulted in the rise of the modern financial system. As political entities became more conscious of this growth imperative, and their competition with other entities, they began to consciously build institutions to enhance their ability to grow. The earliest, and least intentional example is that of economic specialization and centralization. Since before the articulation of these principles by Adam Smith, it was understood that specialization was more efficient—when measured in terms of growth—than artesian craftsmanship, and that centralized production that leveraged economy of place better facilitated growth than did distributed production. It was not enough merely to specialize “a little,” because the yardstick was not growth per se, but growth in comparison to the growth of competitors. It was necessary to specialize and centralize ever more than competing polities in order to survive. As with previous systems of growth, the agricultural and industrial revolutions were self-reinforcing as nations competed in terms of the size of the infantry armies they could field, the amount of steel for battleships and cannon they could produce, etc. It wasn’t possible to reverse course—while it may have been possible for the land area of England, for example, to support its population via either centralized or decentralized agriculture, only centralized agriculture freed a large enough portion of the population to manufacture export goods, military materiel, and to serve in the armed forces.

Similarly, the expansion of credit accelerated the rate of growth—it was no longer necessary to save first buy later when first home loans, then car loans, then consumer credit cards became ever more prevalent, all accelerating at ever-faster rates thanks to the wizardry of complex credit derivatives. This was again a self-supporting cycle: while it is theoretically possible to revert from a buy-now-pay-later system to a save-then-buy system, the transition period would require a significant period of vastly reduced spending—something that would crush today’s highly leveraged economies. Not only is it necessary to maintain our current credit structure, but it is necessary to continually expand our ability to consume now and pay later—just as in the peer polity conflicts between stone-age tribes, credit providers race to provide more consumption for less buck in an effort to compete for market share and to create shareholder return. Corporate entities, while existing at least as early as Renaissance Venice, are yet another example of structural bias toward growth: corporate finance is based on attracting investment by promising greater return for shareholder risk than competing corporations, resulting in a structural drive toward the singular goal of growth. And modern systems of quarterly reporting and 24-hour news cycles only exacerbate the already short-term risk horizons of such enterprises.

Why This is Important

This has been a whirlwind tour of the structural bias in hierarchy toward growth, but it has also, by necessity, been a superficial analysis. Books, entire libraries, could be filled with the analysis of this topic. But despite the scope of this topic, it is remarkable that such a simple concept underlies the necessity of growth: within hierarchy, surplus production equates to power, requiring competing entities across all scales to produce ever more surplus—to grow—in order to compete, survive, and prosper. This has, quite literally, Earth shaking ramifications.

We live on a finite planet, and it seems likely that we are nearing the limits of the Earth’s ability to support ongoing growth. Even if this limit is still decades or centuries away, there is serious moral hazard in the continuation of growth on a finite planet as it serves merely to push that problem on to our children or grandchildren. Growth cannot continue infinitely on a finite planet. This must seem obvious to many people, but I emphasize the point because we tend to overlook or ignore its significance: the basis of our civilization is fundamentally unsustainable. Our civilization seems to have a knack for pushing the envelope, for finding stop-gap measures to push growth beyond a sustainable level. This is also problematic because the further we are able to inflate this bubble beyond a level that is sustainable indefinitely, the farther we must ultimately fall to return to a sustainable world. This is Civilization’s sunk cost: there is serious doubt that our planet can sustain 6+ billion people over the long term, but by drawing a line in the sand, that “a solution that results in the death of millions or billions to return to a sustainable level” is fundamentally impermissible, we merely increase the number that must ultimately die off. Furthermore, while it is theoretically possible to reduce population, as well as other measures of impact on our planet, in a gradual and non-dramatic way (e.g. no die off), the window of opportunity to choose that route is closing. We don’t know how fast—but that uncertainty makes this a far more difficult risk management problem (and challenge to political will) than knowing that we have precisely 10, 100, or 1000 years.

This is our ultimate challenge: solve the problem of growth or face the consequences. Growth isn’t a problem that can be solved through a new technology–all that does is postpone the inevitable reckoning with the limits of a finite world. Fusion, biofuels, super-efficient solar panels, genetic engineering, nano-tech–these cannot, by definition, solve the problem. Growth is not merely a population problem, and no perfect birth control scheme can fix it, because peer polities will only succeed in reducing population (without being eliminated by those that outbreed them) if they can continue to compete by growing overall power to consumer, produce, and control. All these “solutions” can do is delay and exacerbate the Problem of Growth. Growth isn’t a possible problem–it’s a guaranteed crisis, we just don’t know the exact time-frame.

Is there a solution to the Problem of Growth? Can global governance lead to an agreement to abate or otherwise manage growth effectively? It’s theoretically possible, but I see it about as likely as solving war by getting everyone to agree to not fight. Plus, as the constitutional validity and effective power of the Nation-State declines, even if Nation-States manage to all agree to abate growth, they will fail because they are engaged in a very real peer-polity competition with non-state groups that will only use this competitive weakness as a means to establish a more dominant position–and continue growth. Others would argue that collapse is a solution (a topic I have explored in the past), but I now define that more as a resolution. Collapse does nothing to address the causes of Growth, and only results in a set-back for the growth-system. Exhaustion of energy reserves or environmental capacity could hobble the ability of civilization to grow for long periods of time–perhaps even on a geological time scale–but we have no way of knowing for sure that a post-crash civilization will not be just as ragingly growth-oriented as today’s civilization, replete with the same or greater negative effects on the environment and the human spirit. Similarly, collapse that leads to extinction is a resolution, not a solution, when viewed from a human perspective.

A solution, at least as I define it, must allow humans to control the negative effects of growth on our environment and our ability to fulfill our ontogeny. The remaining essays in this series will attempt to identify the root cause of the problem of growth, and to propose concrete and implementable solutions that satisfy that definition.

II. Hierarchy is the Result of Dependency

The first section in this essay identified the reason why hierarchal human structures must grow: surplus production equals power, and entities across all scales must compete for this power—must grow—or they will be pushed aside by those who do. But why can’t human settlements simply exist as stable, sustainable entities? Why can’t a single family or a community simply decide to opt out of this system? The answer: because they are dependent on others to meet their basic needs, and must participate in the broader, hierarchal system in order to fulfill these needs. Dependency, then, is the lifeblood of hierarchy and growth.

Dependency Requires Participation on the Market’s Terms

Take, for example, a modern American suburbanite. Her list of dependencies is virtually unending: food, fuel for heat, fuel for transport, electricity, clothing, medical care, just to name a few. She has no meaningful level of self-sufficiency—without participation in hierarchy she would not survive. This relationship is hierarchal because she is subservient to the broader economy—she may have negotiating power with regard to what job she performs at what compensation for what firm, but she does not have negotiating power on the fundamental issue of participating in the market economy on its terms. She must participate to gain access to her fundamental needs—she is dependent (consider also Robert Anton Wilson’s notion of money in civilization as “bio-surival tickets”).

Compare this to the fundamentally similar situation of family in Lahore, Pakistan, or a farmer in rural Colombia. While their superficial existence and set of material possessions may be strikingly different, they share this common dependency. The Colombian farmer is dependent on a seed company and on revenue from his harvest to fuel his tractor, heat his home, and buy the 90% of his family’s diet that he does not grow. The family in Lahore is dependent on the sales from their clothing store to purchase food—they cannot grow it themselves as they live in an apartment in a dense urban environment. They are dependent on participation in hierarchy—they cannot participate on their own terms and select for a stable and leisurely life. The market, as a result of competition between entities at all levels, functions to minimize input costs—if corn can be grown more cheaply in America and shipped to Colombia than it can be grown in Colombia, by a sufficient margin, then that will eventually happen. This requires the Colombian farmer to compete to make his corn as cheap as possible—i.e. to work as long and as hard to maximize his harvest. While if he were participating on his own terms, he may only wish to work 20 hours per week, he may have to work 50, 60, or more hours at hard labor to make enough money off competitively priced corn to be able meet the basic needs of his family in return. He is in competition with his neighbors and competing entities around the world to minimize the input cost of his own efforts—a poor proposition, and one that is forced upon him because he participates on the market’s terms, all a result of his dependency on the market to meet his basic needs. The situation of the family of shopkeepers in Pakistan or the Suburban knowledge-worker in America is fundamentally the same, even if it may vary on the surface.

The Blurring of Needs and Wants

Why not just drop out? It isn’t that tough to survive as a hermit, gather acorns, grow potatoes on a small plot of forest, or some other means of removing oneself from this dependency on the market. To begin with, “dropping out” and becoming self-sufficient is not quite as easy as it sounds, and just as importantly, it would become nearly impossible if any significant portion of the population chose that route. But more fundamentally, humans don’t want to drop out of participation in the market because they desire the enhanced consumption that is available—or at least exists in some far-off-promised land called “America” (fantasy even in the mind of most “Americans”)—only through such participation. It may be possible to eat worms and acorns and sleep in the bushes, but this would be even more unacceptable than schlepping to work 40+ hours a week. Most people cannot envision, let alone implement, a system that maintains an acceptable “standard of living” without participation in the system, and all but the very lucky or brave few can’t figure out how to participate in that system without being dependent on it.

There is certainly a blurring of “needs” and “wants” in this dependency. Humans don’t “need” very much to remain alive, but a certain amount of discretionary consumption tends to increase the effectiveness of the human machine. From the perspective of the market, this is desirable, but is also an input cost that must be minimized. This is the fundamental problem of participating in the market, the economy, the “system” on its terms: the individual becomes nothing more than an input cost to be minimized in the competition between entities at a higher organizational level. John Robb recently explored this exact issue, but from the perspective of the local community–the implications are quite similar.

In an era of globalization, increased communications connectivity, and (despite the rising costs of energy) an ever increasing global trade network, this marginalization is accelerating at breakneck speed. Is your job something that can be done online from India? How about in person by an illegal immigrant? Because there are people with doctorates willing to work for ª what you make if you’re in a knowledge field, and people with high tolerance for mind-numbing, back-breaking labor willing to work hard for $5/hour or less right next door (or for $2/day overseas). If this doesn’t apply to you, you’re one of the lucky few (and, if I might add, you should be working to get yourself to into just such a position). Maybe they don’t know how to outsource your function yet, but trust me, someone is working on it. Participation in the market on its terms means that the market is trying to find a way to make your function cheaper.

This dependency on participation in the hierarchal system fuels the growth of hierarchy. Even if there is a severe depression or collapse, hierarchy will survive the demand destruction because it is necessary to produce and redistribute necessities to people who don’t or can’t produce them themselves. It may be smaller or less complex, but as long as people depend on participation in an outside system—whether that is a local strong man or an international commodities exchange—to gain access to basic necessities, the organization of that system will be hierarchal. And, as a hierarchy, that system will compete with other hierarchies to gain surplus, to grow, and to minimize the cost of human input.

Dependency on a Security Provider

One of the most significant areas in which people are dependent on hierarchal systems is to provide security. This seems to be especially true in times of volatility and change. While it may be possible to set up a fairly self-sufficient farm or commune and provide for one’s basic needs, this sufficiency must still be defended. If everyone doesn’t have access to the necessities that you produce for yourself, then there is potential for conflict. This could range from people willing to use violence to access to your food or water supply to governments or local strong-men expecting your participation in their tax scheme or ideological struggle. Ultimately, dependence on hierarchy is dependence on the blanket of security it provides, no matter how coercive or disagreeable it may be, and even if this security takes the form of “participation” in exchange for protection from the security provider itself.

Why this is Important

Virtually everyone is dependent on participation in hierarchal systems to meet their basic needs, of one type or another. This dependency forces participation, and drives the perpetual growth—and therefore the ultimate unsustainability—of hierarchy. If growth is the problem, then it is necessary to identify the root cause of that problem so that we may treat the problem itself, and not merely a set of symptoms. In our analysis, we have seen in Part 1 that hierarchies must grow, and now in this installment that human dependency is what sustains these hierarchies. Dependency, then, is the root cause of the problem of growth.

III. Building an Alternative to Hierarchy: Rhizome

So far in this essay, I have argued that competition between hierarchal entities selects for those entities that most efficiently grow and intensify, resulting in a requirement for perpetual growth, and that ongoing human dependency on participation in this system is the lifeblood of this process. At the most basic level, then, an alternative to hierarchy and a solution to the problem of growth must address this issue of dependency. My proposed alternative—what I call “rhizome”—begins at exactly this point.

Achieving Minimal Self-Sufficiency

The first principle of rhizome is that individual nodes—whether that is family units or communities of varying sizes—must be minimally self-sufficient. “Minimally self-sufficient” means the ability to consistently and reliably provide for anything so important that you would be willing to subject yourself to the terms of the hierarchal system in order to get it: food, shelter, heat, medical care, entertainment, etc. It doesn’t mean zero trade, asceticism, or “isolationism,” but rather the ability to engage in trade and interaction with the broader system when, and only when, it is advantageous to do so. The corollary here is that a minimally self-sufficient system should also produce some surplus that can be exchanged—but only to the extent that is found to be advantageous. A minimally self sufficient family may produce enough of its own food to get by if need be, its own heat and shelter, and enough of some surplus—let’s say olive oil—to exchange for additional, quality-of-life-enhancing consumables as it finds advantageous. This principle of minimal self-sufficiency empowers the individual family or community, while allowing the continuation of trade, value-added exchange, and full interaction with the outside world.

It should be immediately apparent that “dependency” is the result of one’s definition of “need.” Total self-sufficiency in the eyes of a Zimbabwean peasant, even outright luxury, may fall far short of what the average American perceives as “needing” to survive. As a result, an
“objectively” self-sufficient American may sell himself into hierarchy to acquire what is perceived as a “need.” To this end, what I have called “elegant simplicity” is a critical component of the creation of
“minimal self-sufficiency.” This is the notion that through conscious design we can meet and exceed our “objective” needs (I define these as largely experiential, not material, and set by our genetic ontogeny, not the global consumer-marketing system) at a level of material consumption that can realistically be provided for on a self-sufficient basis. I’ve written about this topic on several previous occasions (1 2 3 4 5).

Leveraging “Small-Worlds” Networks

How should rhizome nodes interact? Most modern information processing is handled by large, hierarchal systems that, while capable of digesting and processing huge amounts of information, incur great inefficiencies in the process. The basic theoretical model for rhizome communication is the fair or festival. This model can be repeated locally and frequently—in the form of dinner parties, barbecues, and reading groups—and can also affect the establishment and continuation of critical weak, dynamic connections in the form of seasonal fairs, holiday festivals, etc. This is known as the “small-worlds” theory of network. It tells us that, while many very close connections may be powerful, the key to flat-topography (i.e. non-hierarchal) communications is a broad and diverse network of distant but weak connections. For example, if you know all of your neighbors well, you will be relatively isolated in the context of information awareness. However, if you also have weak contact with a student in India, a farmer across the country, and your cousin in London, you will have access to the very different set of information immediately available to those people. These weak connections greatly expands information awareness, and leverages a much more powerful information processing network—while none of your neighbors may have experienced a specific event or solved a particular problem before, there is a much greater chance that someone in your diverse and distant “weak network” has.

In high-tech terms, the blogosphere is exactly such a network. While many blogs may focus primarily on cat pictures, there is tremendous potential to use this network as a distributed and non-hierarchal problem solving, information collection, and processing system. In a low-tech, or vastly lower energy world, the periodic fair or festival performs the same function.

Building Rhizome Institutions

The final aspect of the theory of rhizome is the need to create rhizome-creating and rhizome-strengthening institutions. One of these is the ability of rhizome to defend itself. Developments in fourth generation warfare suggest that, now more than ever, it is realistic for a small group or network to effectively challenge the military forces of hierarchy. However, it is not my intent here to delve into the a plan for rhizome military defense—I have explored that topic elsewhere, and strongly recommend John Robb’s blog and book “Brave New War” for more on this topic.
One institution that I do wish to explore here is the notion of anthropological self-awareness. It is important that the every participant node in rhizome has an understanding of the theoretical foundation of rhizome, and of the general workings of anthropological systems in general. Without this knowledge, it is very likely that participants will fail to realize the pitfalls of dependency, resulting in a quick slide back to hierarchy. I like to analogize anthropological self-awareness to the characters in the movie “Scream,” who were aware of the clichÈ rules that govern horror movies while actually being in a horror movie. When individual participants understand the rationale behind concepts like minimal self-sufficiency and “small-worlds” network theory, they are far more likely to succeed in consistently turning theory into practice.

Additionally, it is important to recognize the cultural programming that hierarchal systems provide, and to consciously reject and replace parts of this with a myth, taboo, and morality that supports rhizome and discourages hierarchy. Rules are inherently hierarchal—they must be enforced by a superior power, and are not appropriate for governing rhizome. However, normative standards—social norms, taboos, and values—are effective means of coordinating rhizome without resorting to hierarchy. For example, within the context of anthropological self-awareness, it would be considered “wrong” or “taboo” to have slaves, to be a lord of the manor, or to “own” more property than you can reasonably put to sustainable use. This wouldn’t be encoded in a set of laws and enforced by a ruling police power, but rather exist as the normative standard, compliance with which is the prerequisite for full participation in the network.

Finally, institutions should be devolutionary rather than accrete hierarchy. One example of this is the Jubilee system—rather than allow debt or excess property beyond what an individual can use, accumulate, and pass on to following generations–a system that inevitably leads to class divisions and a de facto aristocracy–some ancient cultures would periodically absolve all debt and start fresh, or redistribute land in a one-family-one-farm manner. These specific examples may not apply well to varying circumstances, but the general principles applies: cultural institutions should reinforce decentralization, independence, and rhizome, rather than centralization, dependency, and hierarchy.

Is This Setting the Bar Too High for All?

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a tall order. While the current system—massive, interconnected, and nested hierarchies and exchange systems—is anything but simple, its success is not dependent on every participant comprehending how the system works. While rhizome doesn’t require completely omniscient knowledge by all participants, the danger of hierarchy lurks in excessive specialization in the knowledge and rationale supporting rhizome—dependency on a select few to comprehend and operate the system is just that: dependency. Is it realistic to expect people to, en masse, understand, adopt, and consistently implement these principles? Yes.

I have no delusions that this is some perfect system that can be spread by airdropped pamphlet and then, one night, a switch is flipped and “rhizome” is the order of the day. Rather, I see this as the conceptual framework for the gradual, incremental, and distributed integration of these ideas into the customized plans of individuals and communities preparing for the future. I have suggested in the past that rhizome should operate on what Antonio Negri has called the “diagonal”– that is, in parallel but out of phase with the existing, hierarchal system. There may also be lessons to be incorporated from Hakim Bey’s notions of the Temporary Autonomous Zone and the Permanent Autonomous Zone—that flying under the radar of hierarchy may be a necessary expedient. Ultimately, this will likely never be a system that is fully adopted by society as a whole—I tend to envision this as analogous, in some ways, to the network of monasteries that retained classical knowledge through the dark in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. In a low-energy future, it may be enough to have a small rhizome network operating in parallel to, but separated from, the remnants of modern civilization. Whether we experience a fast crash, a slow collapse, the rise of a neo-feudal/neo-fascist system, or something else, an extant rhizome network may act as a check on the ability of that system to exploit and marginalize the individual. If rhizome is too successful, too threatening to that system it may be imperiled, but if it is a “competitor” in the sense that it sets a floor and for how much hierarchal systems can abuse humanity, if it provides a viable alternative model, that may be enough to check hierarchy and achieve sustainability and human fulfillment. And, if this is all no more than wishful thinking, it may provide a refuge while Rome burns.

IV. Implementing Rhizome at the Personal Level

Rhizome begins at the personal level, with a conscious attempt to understand anthropological processes, to build minimal self-sufficiency, and to engage in “small-worlds” networks. This installment will outline my ideas for implementing this theory at the personal level in an incremental and practicable way. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of ideas, but rather a starting point for discussion:


In the 21st Century, I think it will become clear that water is our most critical resource. We’ll move past our reliance on oil and fossil fuels—more by the necessity of resorting to dramatically lower consumption of localized energy—but we can’t move beyond our need for water. There is no substitute, so efficiency of use and efficacy of collection are our only options. In parts of the world, water is not a pressing concern. However, due to the fundamental and non-substitutable need for water everywhere, creating a consistent and resilient water supply should be a top priority everywhere. Climate change, or even just periodic extreme drought such as has recently hit the Atlanta area, may suddenly endanger water supplies that today may be considered a “sure thing.” How does the individual do this? I think that four elements are crucial: efficient use, resilient collection systems, purification, and sufficient storage.

Efficient use is the best way to maximize any available water supply, and the means to achieve this are varied: composting (no-flush) toilets, low-flow shower heads, mulching in the garden, etc. Greywater systems (also spelled “graywater,” various spellings seem popular, so search on both) that reuse domestic water use in the garden are another critical way to improve efficiency.

Resilient collection systems are also critical. Rainwater harvesting is the best way to meet individual minimal self-sufficiency—dependence on a shared aquifer, on a municipal supply system, or on a riparian source makes your water supply dependent on the actions of others. Rainwater falling on your property is not (at least arguably not) dependent on others, and it can provide enough water to meet minimal needs of a house and garden in even the most parched regions with sufficient planning and storage. There are many excellent resources on rainwater harvesting, but I think Brad Lancaster’s series is the best—-buy it, read it, and implement his ideas.

While dirty water may be fine for gardens, water purification may be necessary for drinking. Even if an existing water supply doesn’t require purification, the knowledge and ability to purify enough water for personal use with a solar still or via some other method enhances resiliency in the face of unforeseen events.

Storage is also critical. Rain, fortunately, does not fall continuously—it comes in very erratic and unpredictable doses. Conventional wisdom would have said that long-term storage wasn’t necessary in the Atlanta area because rain falls so regularly all year round that storage of only a few months supply would suffice. Recent events proved this wrong. Other areas depend on short, annual monsoon seasons for the vast majority of their rain (such as Arizona). Here, storage of at least one year’s water supply is a threshold for self-sufficiency, and more is desirable. Significant droughts and erratic rainfall mean the more storage the better—if you don’t have enough storage to deal with a drought that halves rainfall for two straight years, then you are forced back to dependency in such an event at exactly the worst time, when everyone else is also facing scarcity. Where to store water? The options here are also varied—cisterns are an obvious source for drinking water, as are ponds where it is a realistic option, but storage in the ground via swales and mulch is a key part of ensuring the water supply to a garden.


If you have enough water and land, it should be possible to grow enough food to provide for minimal self-sufficiency. While many people consider this both unrealistic and extreme, I think it is neither. Even staunchly “establishment” thinkers such as the former chief of Global Strategy for Morgan Stanley advise exactly this path in light of the uncertainty facing humanity. There are several excellent approaches to creating individual food self-sufficiency: Permaculture (see Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”), Masanobu Fukuoka’s “Natural Way of Farming” (see book of the same name), Hart’s “Food Forests,” and John Jeavons’ “Biointensive Method” (see “How to Grow More Vegetables”). Some combination and modification of these ideas will work in your circumstances. It is possible to grow enough calories to meet an individual’s requirements in only a few thousand square feet of raised beds—a possibility on even smaller suburban lots, and I have written about the ability to provide a culinarily satisfying diet on as little as 1/3 acre per person.

An additional consideration here is the need to make food supplies resilient in the face of unknown events. I have written about exactly this topic in “Creating Resiliency in Horticulture”, which basically advises to hedge failure of one type of food production with others that are unlikely to fail simultaneously—e.g. balance vegetable gardens with tree-crop production, mix animal production with the availability of reserve rangeland, or include a reserve of land for gathering wild foods. In Crete, after World War II, while massive starvation was wreaking Greece, the locals reverted to harvesting nutritious greens from surrounding forests to survive. The right mix to achieve food resiliency will vary everywhere—the key is to consciously consider and address the issue for your situation.

Shelter, Heating, & Cooling

Shelter should be designed to reduce or eliminate outside energy inputs for heating and cooling. This is possible even in the most extreme climates. Shelter should also be designed to eliminate reliance on building or maintenance materials that can’t be provided in a local and sustainable fashion. I realize that this is a challenge—but our architectural choices speak just as loudly about our real lifestyle as our food choices. Often, studying the architectural choices of pre-industrial people living in your region, or in a climatically similar region, provides great insight into locally appropriate architectural approaches. Passive solar heating and cooling is possible, with the right design, in virtually any climate—something that I have written about elsewhere.


I’m not going to advocate that individuals set up their own private, defensible bunker stocked with long rifles, claymore mines, and cases of ammunition. If that’s your thing, great. I do think that owning one or more guns may be a good idea for several reasons—defense being only one (hunting, good store of value, etc.). Let’s face facts: if you get to the point that you need to use, or threaten to use a lethal weapon to defend yourself, you’re A) already in serious trouble, and B) have probably made some avoidable mistakes along the way. The single best form of defense that is available to the individual is to ensure that your community is largely self-sufficient, and is composed of individuals who are largely self-sufficient. The entirety of part five of this series will address exactly that topic. Hopefully, America will never get to the point where lethal force must be used to protect your garden, but let’s face it, large parts of the world are already there. In either case, the single best defense is a community composed of connected but individually self-reliant individuals—this is rhizome. If your neighbors don’t need to raid your garden or “borrow” your possessions, then any outside threat to the community is a galvanizing force.

For now, aside from building a resilient community, there are a few things that individuals can do to defend their resiliency. First, don’t stand out. Hakim Bey’s notion of the permanent autonomous zone depends largely on staying “off the map.” How this manifests in individual circumstances will vary wildly. Second, ensure that your base of self-sufficiency is broad and minimally portable. At the risk of seeming like some wild-eyed “Mad Max” doom-monger, brigands can much more easily cart off wealth in the form of sheep or bags of cracked corn than they can in the form of almond trees, bee hives, or a well-stocked pond. Just think through how you achieve your self-sufficiency, and how vulnerable the entire system is to a single shock, a single thief, etc. You don’t have to believe that there will ever be roaming bands of brigands to consider this strategy—it applies equally well to floods, fire, drought, pestilence, climate change, hyperinflation, etc. My article “Creating Resiliency in Horticulture” also addresses this point.

Medicine, Entertainment, & Education

You don’t need to know how to remove your own appendix or perform open heart surgery. You don’t need to become a Tony-award caliber actor to perform for your neighbors. You don’t need to get a doctorate in every conceivable field for the education of your children. But if you understand basic first aid, if you can hold a conversation or tell a story, if you have a small but broad library of non-fiction and reference books, you’re a step ahead. Can you cook a good meal and entertain your friends? Look, human quality of life depends on more than just the ability to meet basic caloric and temperature requirements. The idea of rhizome is not to create a bunch of people scraping by with the bare necessities. Having enough food is great—you could probably buy enough beans right now to last you the next 10 years, but I don’t want to live that way. Most Americans depend on our economy to provide us a notion of quality of life—eating out, watching movies, buying cheap consumables. Minimal self-sufficiency means that we need the ability to provide these quality of life elements on our own. This probably sounds ridiculous to people in the third world who already do this—or to the lucky few in the “West” who have regular family meals, who enjoy quality home cooking, who can carry on enlightening and entertaining conversations for hours, who can just relax and enjoy the simplicity of sitting in the garden. It may sound silly to some, but for others this will be the single, most challenging dependency to eliminate. Again—dependency is the key. I’m not saying that you can never watch E! or go out to Applebee’s. What I am saying is that if you are so dependent on this method of achieving “quality of life” that you will enter the hierarchal system on its terms to access it, you have not achieved minimal self-sufficiency.

Production for Exchange

Finally, beyond minimal self sufficiency, the individual node should have the capability to produce some surplus for exchange because this allows access to additional quality-of-life creating products and services beyond what a single node can realistically provide entirely for itself. This is the point where minimal self-sufficiency doesn’t require isolationism. It is neither possible nor desirable for an individual or family node to provide absolutely everything desired for an optimal quality of life. While minimal self-sufficiency is essential, it is not essential to produce independently every food product, every tool, every type of entertainment, every service that you will want. Once minimal self-sufficiency is achieved, the ability to exchange a surplus product on a discretionary basis allows the individual node to access the myriad of wants—but not needs—that improve quality of life. This surplus product may be a food item—maybe you have 30 chickens and exchange the extra dozen or two eggs that you don’t consumer on a daily basis. Maybe you make wine, olive oil, baked bread, or canned vegetables. Maybe you provide a service—medicine, childcare & education, massage, who knows? The possibilities are endless, but the concept is important.

Practical Considerations in Implementing Rhizome at the Personal Level

Rhizome isn’t an all or nothing proposition—it is possible, and probably both necessary and desirable, to take incremental, consistent steps toward rhizome. Learn how to do more with less. Work to consciously integrate the principles of rhizome into every aspect of your daily life—think about your choices in consumption, then make medium and long-term plans to take bigger steps towards the full realization of rhizome.

And, perhaps most of all, rhizome does not demand, or even endorse, a “bunker mentality.” The single greatest step that an individual can take toward rhizome is to become an active participant in the creation of rhizome in the immediate, local community.

V. Implementing Rhizome at the Community Level

This final essay in this five-part series, The Problem of Growth, looks at implementing rhizome at a community level. Rhizome does not reject community structures in favor of a “bunker mentality,” but rather requires community structures that embrace and facilitate the principles of rhizome at both the personal and community level. Ultimately a rhizome community is composed of rhizome individual or family nodes—participants who do not depend on the community for their basic survival, nor participants who expect to benefit from the community without contribution. Rather, both the individual and the community choose to participate with each other as equals in a non-zero-sum fashion.

The results-based focus of the community is essentially the same as the individual, because the community consists of individuals who recognize the ability of the community to help them build resiliency and self-sufficiency in the provision of their basic needs, as well as the ability to access a broader network beyond the community.


The first thing that communities can do is to get out of the way of individuals’ attempts to create water self-sufficiency: remove zoning and ordinance hurdles that prevent people from practicing rainwater collection and storage, or that mandate people keep their front lawns watered. Communities can also address their storm water policies—many communities simply direct storm water into the ocean (see Los Angeles, for example), rather than effectively storing it in percolation ponds, or otherwise retaining it for community use. Communities can also facilitate the collection and sharing of water-collection and efficiency best practices, as well as help people to refine ideas from outside the community in a locally-appropriate manner. The possibilities are endless—as with virtually everything else here, the key is that the community recognize the issue and make a conscious effort to address it.


Again, communities should start by getting out of the way of individuals’ attempts to become food self-sufficient. This means eliminating zoning or ordinances that require lawns instead of vegetable gardens, that prevent the owning of small livestock such as chickens in suburban developments, and even (!) that mandate the planting of non-fruit bearing trees (on the theory that they’re messy if you forget to harvest them). But communities can also have a very proactive role in facilitating food self-sufficiency. Community gardens are a great place to start, especially where people live in high density housing that makes individual gardening impracticable. This has been done to great effect in urban areas in Venezuela, for instance. Communities can also foster knowledge and facilitate the sharing of best practices via lecture series, master gardener courses, local gardening extensions, community college courses, or community seek banks for locally appropriate species. Finally, communities should consider encouraging farmers markets to promote local surplus produce, to promote at least regional food self-sufficiency, and to kindle a public appreciation for the quality and value of fresh, seasonal, locally grown foods.

Shelter, Heating, & Cooling

I see the actual implementation of self-sufficient shelters as primarily an individual concern, though communities should certainly consider making communal structure, schools, etc. that conform to these standards. Most significantly, however, communities can work to get government out of the way of people who wish to do so individually. Get rid of zoning requirements that forbid solar installations, graywater, rainwater catchment, or small livestock, or that mandate set-backs and minimum numbers of parking spaces. Pass laws or ordinances that eliminate Home Owners’ Association rules prohibiting vegetable gardens, that mandate lawns, that prevent solar installations, etc. Many Colorado Home Owners’ Associations (HOAs) used to ban the installation of solar panels, but Colorado recently passed a statute that prevents HOAs from banning solar—seems like a good idea to me. The Colorado law certainly isn’t perfect, but it is an example of a very real step that a few people can take to work with their local or state government to help make your community more self-sufficient. If your HOA prevents you from installing solar hot water (or other solar), why not try to get the HOA to change its rules–there may be many other neighbors who want the same thing, and the more self-sufficient your immediate neighbors, the stronger your community, even if that community is “suburbia.” If your HOA won’t change, follow Colorado’s example.


As with individual defense, I don’t advocate that a community take a bunker mentality and make preparations for a Hizb’Allah style defense of South Lebanon. I think that could work, and I’ve written about it here, but I think it is the second to worst outcome and something to be avoided if possible. In modern America, it seems obvious to me that it is fully possible for a rhizome community to operate within the umbrella of any current state government, as well as the federal government. However, there are other nations—take Colombia for example—where this is probably not possible. It seems like a very real possibility that the permissive environment America currently enjoys could look much more like Colombia at some point in the future. For that reason, this is an issue that must be taken up on a case-by-case basis by local communities. While I certainly wouldn’t advocate an armed militia patrolling the perimeter of the self-sufficiency conscious town of Willits, California (though some American communities effectively do this already), this kind of “extreme” action may well be a basic requirement for a small village in Colombia that is attempting to institute localized self-sufficiency and rhizome structure.

Medicine, Entertainment, & Education

Communities have a myriad of ways to provide for their own entertainment, without resorting to some canned cable-TV product. Also, communities can address the specialized knowledge problems—education and medicine, as well as gardening, and the theory of rhizome, by ensuring that these topics are covered in local school curriculums at all levels (public and private), by making these kinds of learning resources available via a community college, the local library, a lecture series, etc.

Exchange, Information Processing, and Interaction Beyond the Local Community

The possibilities here are numerous, and I’ll just name a few possibilities for consideration: Community currency, community paper or blog, community development micro-loans, sponsoring seasonal fairs or festivals, etc. This is an area ripe for innovation and the sharing of best-practices…for additional ideas, see “Going Local” by Michael Schuman.

Practical Considerations in Implementing Rhizome at the Community Level

Just as with implementing rhizome at the individual level, rhizome is not an all-or-nothing proposition for communities. Any step that makes it easier for individuals to move toward rhizome is beneficial. Every community’s situation is different, and the number of ways to combine just the few suggestions provided here is nearly limitless. Customize, come up with new solutions, adapt or reject these ideas as you see fit, and share what works (best practices) and what doesn’t with the world in an open-source manner—but more than anything else, think about how to bring your community closer to rhizome, and then act.

Addressing Free-Riders

Finally, every community must address the problem of free riders. Some people will want to benefit from the community without contributing anything at all. In most cases, normative pressures will suffice, and this is especially true of rhizome, where there isn’t a grand redistributive scheme that facilitates some people to leach indefinitely off the collected surplus. Still, the problem will arise, and there will always be a need and a place for charity, within rhizome and elsewhere. The most important factor in determining who is worthy of charity and who is a free-rider is the conscious articulation of the requirements for membership: the community gains strength by helping up its least self-sufficient members, but it should do so by helping them to fish, rather than repeatedly just giving them fish to eat. Rhizome communities need not be heartless—in fact, they shouldn’t be heartless, not just on moral grounds, but on selfish grounds of building a more resilient community—but they should exert normative pressures to demand participation roughly commensurate with capability.

VI. Conclusion

I hope that this five-part series addressing the Problem of Growth has been useful. One of the cornerstones of my personal philosophy is that growth is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and that shifting from a hierarchal to a rhizome form of social organization is our best chance to “solve” that problem. I also think that rhizome is valuable as it is a scale-free solution: I think that it can help to solve our international and national problems, but even if that fails it can certainly improve our individual situations. Ultimately, removing ourselves, one at a time, from being part of the cause of humanities problem cannot be a bad thing. As Ghandi said, “be the change that you wish to see in this world.” That seems particularly applicable to a scale-free solution!
I think that this discussion is particularly relevant within the context of Peak Oil and Peak Energy.

Infinite growth requires, eventually, infinite energy. Assume that we develop a perfect fusion generator, or that we cover the entire surface of the Earth with 100% efficient solar collectors. None of this actually solves the problem of growth—it just shifts the burden of dealing with that problem onto our grandchildren, or perhaps even 100 generations from now. It’s easy to take the self-centered perspective that such burden-shifting is acceptable, but I find it fundamentally morally unacceptable. This (rather long) essay begins with that moral assumption—if you don’t share it, then you will likely have found a preferable solution, or perhaps denied that growth even represents a problem to begin with. That’s fine by me—I am trying to present one possible solution without claiming that it is the only possible solution. I hope you have found it useful.

The original five parts of this essay can be found here.

Copyright 2008 by Jeff Vail

Jeff Vail is an author, former intelligence officer, and law student. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Visit his website.

Front Page

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

The following article is reposted from the February 26, 2008 online edition of the New York Times.

The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required

Carl Zimmer

Imagine the Book of All Species: a single volume made up of one-page descriptions of every species known to science. On one page is the blue-footed booby. On another, the Douglas fir. Another, the oyster mushroom. If you owned the Book of All Species, you would need quite a bookshelf to hold it. Just to cover the 1.8 million known species, the book would have to be more than 300 feet long. And you’d have to be ready to expand the bookshelf strikingly, because scientists estimate there are 10 times more species waiting to be discovered.

It sounds surreal, and yet scientists are writing the Book of All Species. Or to be more precise, they are building a Web site called the Encyclopedia of Life ( On Thursday its authors, an international team of scientists, will introduce the first 30,000 pages, and within a decade, they predict, they will have the other 1.77 million.

While many of those pages may be sparse at first, the authors hope that the world’s scientific community will pool all of its knowledge on the pages. Unlike a page of paper, a page of the Encyclopedia of Life can hold as much information as scientists can upload. “It’s going to have everything known on it, and everything new is going to be added as we go along,” said Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist who spearheaded the Encyclopedia of Life and now serves as its honorary chairman.

Other experts not involved in the project hail it as tremendously promising. “I certainly think it is a great idea,” said Jody Hey, a biologist at Rutgers University.

Yet a number of researchers wonder if it will reach its final goal. The encyclopedia is not the first attempt to catalog every species on the planet, and previous efforts have failed. “I have seen 20 years of good ideas go nowhere,” said Daniel Brooks, a University of Toronto biologist.

Dr. Wilson has been involved with some of those failed attempts. But in the past few years major advances in databases have made the goal more realistic. Today biologists can consult databases that hold DNA sequences from hundreds of thousands of species, for example. There are also more detailed databases about groups of species, like mammals, fungi and parasites. In 2003, Dr. Wilson wrote a paper in which he called for all that information to be available in one place.

He and his colleagues then persuaded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to contribute money to a consortium of universities, museums and scientific institutions. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and some of the partners are adding money as well. The encyclopedia will have a budget of about $50 million in its first five years.

When Dr. Wilson and his colleagues announced the start of the Encyclopedia of Life last May, their site was little more than a few mocked-up pages. Behind the scenes, designers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., were busy building a system for getting scientific information online fast.

“If we had sat down at a blank screen and started to write, word by word, preparing the encyclopedia would have been virtually impossible,” said James Edwards, the project’s executive director.

The designers wrote software that could automatically draw information — maps, DNA sequences, bird songs, photographs, evolutionary trees, and so on — from many sources and organize them in one place in one standard format. Ten of the biggest natural history libraries in the world are scanning millions of pages of scientific literature, which computers are text-mining to add more information to species pages.

“The actual development has astonished me,” Dr. Wilson said. “I thought we’d be talking about it and pushing it for a long time.”

The version of the encyclopedia to be introduced Thursday is far from the finished product, Dr. Edwards warned. “It’s going to be rough,” he said. “We’re releasing early to get feedback from people.”

The 30,000 species in the first version will come mainly from databases of fish, amphibians and plants. Experts also created 24 detailed “exemplar” pages, to show just how much information the encyclopedia can handle. Those pages include well-studied species like the yellow fever mosquito, the eastern white pine and the death-cap mushroom.

The researchers wanted to make the site useful to scientists and nonscientists, so they created a sliding button that readers can move to choose how much detail they want. They are also developing ways of manipulating the information to make it useful in many ways.

“You’ll be able to download a personalized field guide,” Dr. Edwards said. “You can say, ‘I’m going to go to this preserve in Thailand — what do we know about what might be there?’ ”

Scientists, meanwhile, will be able to use the Encyclopedia of Life to do original research. One team of scientists is already planning to compare how different species grow old in order to understand the biology of aging.

Experts on biodiversity are generally excited about the site. “The Encyclopedia of Life is a fantastic and long overdue project,” said Quentin D. Wheeler, the director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. But, he said, “my concern is about the content, and where the content will come from.”

The ranks of taxonomists — the scientists who describe species and revise old descriptions — have been shrinking steadily for decades.

“We have not given enough thought to the people who provide the information on which the Encyclopedia of Life is built,” Dr. Edwards acknowledged. “We are looking into ways to keep that community going.”

Dr. Wilson hopes the Encyclopedia of Life will foster the growth of that group. For the past 60 years, he has been studying ants, and in May he and other ant experts will be meeting at Harvard to plan how they can take advantage of the Encyclopedia of Life.

The goal he would like them to set would be to add all 14,000 known species of ants to the encyclopedia, and then add all the unknown ones — perhaps an additional 15,000 to 25,000 species. “It’s going to be a fun adventure for the next few decades,” Dr. Wilson said.

Front Page

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

The following is the Preface of a book titled Future Positive: International cooperation in the 21st century first published in 2004.

Future Positive

Michael Edwards

True freedom is attainable only through relations with others, since in an interconnected world I can never be safe unless you are secure.

These words, from Chapter Ten of Future Positive, have been widely quoted in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC on September 11th 2001. If ever we doubted before, now we surely know what it’s like to live in an increasingly interconnected world, where problems and solutions stretch across national borders and no one has a future unless we learn to work together. Our welfare is affected by events from Argentina to Afghanistan, decisions made in distant capitals, and threats from enemies we may not see until it is too late – like global warming, new diseases, and international networks of terrorists and criminals. In this scenario, global cooperation is essential. Either we pursue a narrow definition of our “national interests” against the background of growing inequality, insecurity and environmental degradation, or we embark on a new era of collective action, much as the international community agreed to do in the aftermath of World War Two. The question is, do we have the courage, clarity of understanding and imagination to rise to this historic challenge?

In dealing with the threats posed by global terrorism, poverty and conflict, two very different approaches are emerging. The first is “Pax Americana”, meaning global regimes for security and development led – and if necessary imposed – by the United States. The second, more popular in Europe and the rest of the world, is “global governance”, meaning rules and institutions that embody the collective responsibilities of states, citizens and businesses to address global threats through democratic negotiation and burden sharing. Future Positive provides a roadmap for those who support the second of these approaches, and much argument and evidence that casts doubt on the viability of the first.

In the first part of the book, Chapters One to Six look back in time to evaluate the record of international cooperation, foreign aid, and humanitarian assistance since 1945. The lessons learned from recent history form the backdrop for the second part of the book, which outlines a series of reforms aimed at improving the impact and effectiveness of the international system in achieving three things that are necessary to overcome the terrorists and deal with the root causes of violence and alienation:

ï a climate of security (economic, political and religious) that makes it less likely that people will vent their frustrations on others using violence

ï a shared commitment across the world to stem the flows of people, money, weapons and information that sustain diffuse but deadly networks of terror; and;

ï coalitions that legitimize the necessary use of force through negotiations built on reciprocity and mutual respect

Chapters Seven and Eight show how to reduce the inequalities and insecurities that encourage people to turn to violence by “humanizing capitalism”: making globalization work for the poor by changing incentives in markets and allowing developing countries to protect themselves while they strengthen their competitiveness; pooling foreign aid in a network of “National Development Funds” governed by – and accountable to – a partnership between government, business and civil society on the ground; and increasing accountability among businesses using codes of conduct that guarantee workers a fair share of the proceeds – by purchasing coffee produced by cooperatives, for example, or making sure that soccer balls are not stitched by children working as slave laborers.

Chapter Nine looks at the gaps and weaknesses that exist in our current institutions for global governance and shows how they might be corrected so that large-scale threats to human life and human rights are properly addressed – unlike the silence that greeted the recent genocide in Rwanda or the lack of legitimacy and planning that is undermining the effectiveness of intervention in Iraq. The New York Police Department spends as much money each year as the UN does on intelligence-gathering and peacekeeping, and (contrary to popular opinion) there are more permanent employees at Disneyland than in the UN Secretariat – a good illustration, perhaps, of a world with its priorities turned upside down. Now is the time for a standing United Nations army and police force to back Security Council resolutions, and an International Criminal Court to hold the abusers to account.

Such measures will not work without support from the widest possible number of countries, and that support is unlikely to be given unless those countries have a louder voice in global decision making. We won’t find lasting solutions to global problems until everyone has a say in the answers and a stake in the outcomes, and that means increasing poor countries’ voice in the World Trade Organization and other international bodies (voting weighted by population as well as Gross National Product), and more space for civil society – citizens’ groups, labor unions and churches – in the corridors of power.

This is an ambitious agenda for reform, and who will lead it? Chapters Ten and Eleven answer this question by looking for new ways to build constituencies for international cooperation in support of a different form of engagement in the world by governments, especially in the rich countries of the North. In democracies, the bottom line is always a constituency willing to make difficult issues matter in the political process, since all politicians need permission from their constituents to do things differently. We desperately need a new social movement in favor of international cooperation, but who will join it when most people (even in the rich world) have pressing domestic problems of their own?

The best way forward, I think, is a joint appeal to self-interest and social conscience, convincing people that their future, and the future of their children, is best provided for in a world that cooperates to manage the opportunities and costs of global integration. That process should start in schools (no education without a global dimension), and extend through colleges and universities, political parties and civic associations, and into our own workplaces and homes. As citizens of an increasingly internationally minded polity, we don’t need to switch off our citizenship when we go shopping, or face difficult issues at work, or have the opportunity to be active in politics. We can all be an advertisement for the virtues of cooperation in every walk of life, and look to make connections between problems and solutions at home and abroad.

In the 21st Century, we will prosper only as members of a global community of active citizens. Is that the kind of world we want to live in and bequeath to those we love? If so, our responsibilities are clear, for all of us share in the work of building a Future Positive.

Visit the author’s website …

Front Page

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

From the SynEARTH Archives 2002. … We continue with the sixth in our SafeEARTH series. See: 1) Beyond Crime and Punishment, 2) Synergic Containment: Protecting Children, 3) Synergic Containment: Science & Rationale, 4) Synergic Containment: Protecting Community and 5) Synergic Disarmament.

Reader’s Reactions to Synergic Containment

Response by Arthur Noll
Subject: Synergic Containment

Hello Arthur,

Thanks for reading and thinking about my work.
Hi Timothy,
Obviously an adult can physically contain a child, or smaller and weaker adult.  Several fit adults can contain a single fit adult.  But  those who are aware of the destruction by the majority of humanity, and see the great need to contain it, are a small minority.  We are not going to physically contain the majority of people. I do think that this minority could mentally contain them, if we worked together on it.  I think mental containment would lead to explosions and not education and reform, but I see nothing else to do. Either outcome would ultimately stop the long term destruction, and allow healing to begin.

This is a very interesting idea! Mental containment. I think you are right that a group of rational and moral individuals could be effective in responding to irrationality and morality, by surrounding the perpetrator with rational responses. I think that it could also generate peer pressure in a positive way. Today in our adversary-neutral culture, we most just ignore stupidity without challenge. This is clearly a mistake.

I don’t know if you saw my recent exchange with Jack Dingler on energy resources.  I quit arguing with him because he clearly was not going to be reasonable about the subject, even though he is one of the more powerful thinkers on the list, often quite rational.  His last post insisted that there was no reason that people who lie, cheat and steal would not survive well, even though I had given reasons why.  (Internal lies weaken the group internally, external lies create and sustain enemies that can weaken the group externally)  He wrote as if I had said nothing.  To mentally contain such thinking, I need help, I am too busy with other matters of sustaining my life in this crazy world to make such an effort of refuting such denial.  Yet there was no one reading that exchange that offered any help.  If people agree with me, they aren’t trying very hard to contain such thinking.  I suspect that many really agree with him,  lying, cheating and stealing is the way to get big in this world, it is silently condoned in many ways.  But containment is indeed what is needed.  Wherever irrational thought like this springs up, it needs to be contained, arrested, because it is destructive to all if it is acted on, and thought precedes action.

Good point and well said! Thanks for the note,


Response by Hank Burroughs
Subject: Regarding  Synergic Containment: A Mechanism for Protecting Humanity


Sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your note.

Hank: This is a very interesting proposal and obviously took considerable thought.  I have not seen any other comments so will try to present mine.  The idea of a safe Earth is very appealing.  I did much of my Masters degree work on intentional communities and Skinnerarian Behavior modification   That is the first thing that popped into my mind as I read Timothy ideas.  This was followed by thoughts of the Communist Chinese “justice” system and their social controls like one child per family.  This may be the only hope for Homo sapiens but I certainly hope not.

Maybe after several generations we could produce a group of people that would function as Timothy plans but I don’t think I will be here to see it.  Even B. F. Skinner realized it would take special education of the children to have them think in a social fashion with the group’s needs first.  We certainly see example of this in some actions today.  The actions of the passengers on 9/11 who caused the plane they were on to crash before it could hurt people in a building on the ground is a good example.  This is an extreme example but does show the  desired attitude.

I agree that the challenge may be to improve humanity so that they can function comfortably in a synergic fashion. I see community classes for both children and adults so the principles of synergic relationship can be learned and practiced. I expect once individuals begin to practice synergy they will discover is an easy and comfortable life style. Think of how you feel when you are working well with good friends and family and lots of mutual respect.

Hank: I think that these same people would react very strongly against the key ideas of Timothy’s proposal.  The idea of giving so much power to an “elite” group is the opposite of what the United States is all about.  I can think of no example to support the select group (Doctors, psychiatrists, teachers, etc.) as being able to make incorruptible decisions in all cases. 

Synergists are not an “elite” group. They are just very nice people. They believe in working together. In helping others. They are opposed to adversity and neutrality. They want a win-win-win-win world. Where you win, I win, Community wins, and the planet wins.

Hank: In fact,  I think there was a war fought around  1776 to prevent such a concentration of power.  Our system of government has produced a better life for more people than any other in the history of the world.  It is not perfect but I doubt if any system devised by Man will be perfect.  The biggest problem stems from the sheer size of the economic-political system.  Many things need to be controlled on a nationwide or even a world wide basis but most people object to a one world government.

Today we still pretend we live in the majority rule democracy founded in 1776, but this is only an illusion today. As Jay Hanson has explained we live in dollarocracy. One Dollar = One Vote.

I agree we are in need of a one world government. I would suggest a synocracy. Power is not concentrated in synocracy it is distributed. Decision does not in the hands of a few people it is equally in the hands of all members of the synergic organization. Take a look at Ortegrity to see how this might work.

Hank: I  personally feel that the coming energy crunch will take care of many of the world’s problems by reducing the total population thereby reducing the pressure on natural resources.  It is the job of this list to devise a plan for a sustainable lifestyle to get some people through the “dieoff”.  If our plans are successful, maybe they can include the necessary behavior modifications needed to be able to use Timothy’s ideas.  It is kind of like Dean’s remark that we will only have people in our community who are healthy because they have always lead an optimal lifestyle.  This will be great for our as yet unborn ancestors if we and our current offspring can start changing the way we live.  Even getting a smoke free restaurant seat is still not possible in some states.  Laws outlawing the use of alcohol just succeeded in producing a “mob” controlled situation that exist even today with our drug problems.

I am even now moving to focus on my contribution here. I am soon to publish a new book explaining human intelligence. Being developed in parallel with this book, is a course for teaching individuals how to optimize their personal intelligence and stablize in what is called the synergic mode of thinking. The result of this achievement will be a shortcut to synergy.

One of my areas of interest and study is human intelligence science. The reason human intelligence is so powerful is because of the synergic relationship between two powerful minds�the space mind and the time mind. This “dual mind” intelligence is capable of generating four distinct levels of knowingInformation, Knowledge, Wisdom, and Oneness. I am currently completing a new book on Understanding Human Intelligence which will explain the Dual Mind and the four levels of knowing which it produces.
A simple metaphor for these four levels of knowing are:
Information is KnowWhere. Where do I go in space to survive. Where do I get water, food, shelter?
Knowledge is KnowWhen. When do I act in time to encourage or stop a sequence of events.
Wisdom is KnowHow. How do many different temporal sequences fit together to create spatial complexity.
And, Oneness is KnowWhy. Why do things happen the way they do? What is the consequence of complexity?
A human with information would know they should avoid a nuclear explosion. Where can I go to be safe.
A human with knowledge could learn to detonate a nuclear weapon. When to a push the button and in what sequence to trigger the bomb.
A person with wisdom could invent and design a nuclear weapon. How do the laws of physics work together and what temporal sequences must I create to allow nuclear fission or fusion to occur.
A person with oneness, would know that nuclear weapons should never be invented or manufactured. What are the consequences of using nuclear power as weapons? What happens when such weapons are common? What happens if they fall into the hands of those dominated anger and ignorance. Why would it be a bad idea to create nuclear weapons?
With our new understanding of human intelligence, it will soon be possible for many humans to learn to understand their minds and began accessing the higher levels of knowing. As they do they will gain increasing understanding of sequence and consequence.

Hank: I thank Timothy for his efforts thinking about the future but would really like to have that kind of effort put into coming up with usable techniques for building our sustainable ecovillages and regional centers.  The wife and I visited the Civano community of Tucson yesterday.  It is suppose to be a cutting edge example for a better Earth friendly way to live.  Except for the narrow streets, tiny lots, and the 2 X 6 construction it is a flop.  Hey, Oregon has required 2 X 6 construction for over 30 years for all new homes!!  The houses are not designed for passive solar gain, all have modern air conditioning, and there seemed to be very few homes with solar hot water and only two with photovoltaic panels.  There was one straw bale and one rastra house.  The sales people said that the purchasers would not pay for the more Earth friendly and sustainable features.  I don’t suppose that the subsidized rates from the power and gas companies had anything to do with their decisions.  Each new owner gets guaranteed low rates for at least 5 years.  Many of the owners did not expect to be there much longer then that according to the sales people we talked with.  There were 36 small townhouse type homes on their own lots which sold out in less then 10 months.  The profit was so low that the builders went to bigger homes which are selling just as well.  Something about supply and demand!

This is a very important focus. I will support this as much as I can.

There are many obstacles to making a sustainable ecovillage but I think Mike Reynolds of Earthship fame has the right idea.  A person or very small group decide what they want, buy some land, and start working on their project step by step.  He has done this with three communities in northern New Mexico and now has basic approval for people to build Earthships there.  I do not propose the Earthship style as the solution to a sustainable ecovillage because it depends on waste products from society for the building materials.  While this would work for a short time, eventually the supply of used tires and pop cans will run out.  Therefore,  what will the 7th generation use?   The basic idea of a self-contained building with its own food, water, and waste recycling system are excellent.  This could probably be expanded to the small village level.  It would rule out living any place with less than about 10 inches of rainfall .

The ideas we saw at Arcosanti also had some merit.  The concentration of the people into a small “footprint” so leaving more open space for food production and esthetic value sounded good.  The village did not use air conditioning and was reported to be uncomfortably warm in the summer and a little chilly in the winter.  We stayed over night in one of the earth-sheltered guess rooms.  It was quite comfortable this time of year.   I do not believe that building with all that concrete would be sustainable because of the energy needed to make cement and iron rebar .  Again with a reduced population maybe we could build enough buildings to last for several hundred years.  At least, Dr Solari is smart enough to build on very “poor” land, leaving the best land to grow crops.

If the group is interested, I could also report on our visits to people building with straw bales and earth plasters and the fun we had at Biosphere 2 learning about a very different vision of the future.  Biosphere 2 did show how to raise food in a sustainable fashion but the 200 million dollars for their dome may be hard for the average group of 8 people to come by.

I am interested. I will soon begin the division of labor at SusCom. All of this work should be helpful.

Enough for now and thanks to all who read this far.  Please let’s have some comments from others on this list.  Sure would like some feedback even if it is negative.

Thanks for reading and thinking about my work.


In response to Hank’s note above, Arthur Noll writes:

I share some of your feelings, Hank.  People would resist it.  People do resist it.  Though the logic of not wanting an elite to make decisions would be a faulty logic, as we have an elite at present who make laws and decisions.  There is a considerable concentration of power in this “democratic” system.  Dollars are votes in the present system, and dollars are highly concentrated to a minority of people.  I think that people  see changing that elite to a different group as unnecessarily risky, would not consider doing it until the present elite clearly has totally messed up the job.  Abstract arguments that the system is faulty and headed for disaster mean little to most people, at least in my experience.  They shrug and go on with their present situation.

I’ve had similar thoughts about using the castoff parts of this society to do things.  I feel it needs to be clearly understood that doing this is not sustainable, but as a way to get by for the present, it is useful.  I have sometimes thought of present humanity as a sort of natural disaster, like a massive volcano that has spewed up millions of tons of metals and plastics.  I don’t plan my life around such events going on forever, or teach children that it can be expected to go on, and minimize buying new stuff since it just feeds the destructive flow, but since this event has also destroyed many traditional sources of materials, I often use junk materials for building with.  My motorized bicycle is on the road again, it is nearly completely made of junked parts.  The engine was a weed eater engine being thrown away, that still runs fine.  The roller drive is an old skateboard wheel.  The various pieces of metal are mostly salvage.  The bicycle itself was rescued from a trash heap.  I haul a trailer with it that is made of recycled wood and bicycle wheels and metal from a trashed bed frame.  We need to be adaptable to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

I would like to contain this “volcano”, but physically it is impossible.  I see the possibility of mental containment of the thinking that drives it, but only when enough people see the need to do so.  Just as what I wrote at the beginning about changing elites.  Many people see the destruction, but say it is worth it, that the destruction isn’t so bad compared to what the technology can do.  It will only be when enough see that what the technology can do is not sustainable, that they will see that it is not worth it. Sustainable systems destroyed, for rusty and broken machines,  in the end.  Including my bicycle and motor.  I will use it, and other things, but I will not call them the future.  The future will be living things, muscle and bone and quiet, not fire and steel and noise.

Arthur Noll

Response by Chris Lucas
Subject: Synergic Containment

Chris: There are many good things in this series from Timothy but getting to such a Utopia could be harder than it seems.

 The point about the individual being allowed to hurt society (with junk mail etc.) is very true and shows a level of stupidity and lack of common sense that I find incredible. Such nonsense is making all our ‘quality-of-lives’ terrible – and it isn’t all about safety !

The idea that harm loses freedom of action for the perpetrator is I think vital, there are no rights at all in a society without responsibilities and the legal idiocy being perpetrated today doesn’t change that.

Defining ‘harm’ however is tricky. This cannot mean just physical harm, but needs to include psychological harm also (noise, mental cruelty and so one). But if we do this then we leave open all sorts of loopholes for presumed ‘hurts’ (he looked ‘nastily’ at me – I want ‘compensation’), a good dose of common sense is needed here !

Tim: I agree that all of this must be applied with humility, humour, and common sense.

I like the Asimov-style ‘laws’ of the Plato-like ‘Life Trust Guardians’ but think we need to add two more:

0) A Life Trust Guardian may not injure the planet or, through inaction, allow the planet to come to harm.

3) A Life Trust Guardian may not injure property or other lifeforms or, through inaction, allow property or other lifeforms to come to harm, except where that would conflict with the Second Law.

The first protects the world from rogue societies (America ?), the second prevents destructive vandalism (by individuals or corporations).

I’d thus modify the 1st to read:

1) A Life Trust Guardian may not injure humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm, except where that would conflict with the Zeroth Law.

Tim: I agree this would be more complete. I had been thinking about similar changes to include protecting the Earth, Natural Resources, and Life (non-human), your suggestions are excellent.

Restitution is another issue where today’s culture fails miserably. Here in U.K. (at least) crimes often result in fines – but the money doesn’t compensate the victim, only lines the State pocket ! Most victims remain worst off after
‘justice’ is done than they were before, whilst the criminals are often better off (4 star ensuite ‘hotel’ accommodation…) than they were before – the incentive system is totally wrong !

One of the main problems with these Guardians however is that they are expected to be saints, rather unrealistic ! Humans are pretty poor at such behaviours, so who guards the Guardians ? For example, who decides what is ‘harm’ and what is not ? Is ‘humanity’ more threatened by Bin Laden or by America’s drug addiction with money ?

Or by subversive literature – “out with the Guardians” (it could perhaps be argued that the ‘police’ cause more actual harm to society than those
‘criminalized’). It seems to be assumed that the ‘harm’/’not-harm’ distinction is a fixed barrier and easily defined, but it is not. There are many dimensions to ‘harm to humanity’ and each is a fuzzy variable.

Tim: I have addressed the problem of how to protect ourselves from the police (Synergic Containment Officers) in today’s posting.
Protecting Us from the Police

Some will argue that we need a private right to weapons to protect us from the police. This argument misses the point. In an earlier article of this SafeEARTH series, I introduced the concept of the Life Trust Guardians and their enforcement arm the Synergic Containment Officers.
Life Trust Guardians and Synergic Containment Officers are not the police, they are synergists. They will be well educated and trained. They will understand the powerful tools they use and the consequence of both the use and missuse of those tools. Remember, synergists believe that we should work together and act responsibly to make the world work for everyone. Synergy means working together�operating together as in Co-Operation� laboring together as in Co-Laboration�acting together as in Co-Action. The goal of synergic union is to accomplish a larger or more difficult task than can be accomplished by individuals working separately. Synergists are committed to a world where I win, you win, others win and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.

Best of the Best

Synergic Containment Officers are Life Trust Guardians. The Life Trust will seek to attract the best of the best as candidates for Trust Guardianship. Once selected these Trust Guardians would have greater trusteeship privileges with concomitant authority and responsibilities for and to the Life Trust.  

Trust Guardian Candidates should have repeatedly demonstrated both personal and public honesty, and should have a history demonstrating synergic morality and behavior. In the future, Universities will offer degrees in Trustegrity and Guardian Science to prepare those young humans to desire to serve Humanity as Community. A careful selection process will be developed to select the very best which could include Trust Guardian Academies.

It is apparent that the responsibilities of Trust Guardians will be great. They of course are not allowed to hurt anyone through their control of the Synergic Trusts. But in addition they are required to protect and conserve the Synergic Trusts. Further, they are required to help others and to insure that all humans have the basic needs of life �both survival and meaning. This is a binding obligation. Failure to meet these obligations results in the immediate loss of Synergic Trustee privileges. The Life Trust Guardians will be charged with protecting Humanity as Community, and Humanity as Individuals.

Chris: The containment strategy suggested ‘nothing goes in’ seems sensible, suspending privileges (what Win called “Incentives As A Preferred Instrument of Corporate and Public Policy”) is a prime incentive (comply or starve!). We have today I think an almost totally inverted system of incentives that reward anti-social behaviour (e.g. corporate greed and bullying, being a ‘billionaire’ while others starve – would the Guardians target this I wonder ?). This needs to be addressed in a more systemic manner, not assuming all values and societies are disjoint (“One Planet and One People” as I have said previously).

The idea that there will be no lawyers will not be popular ! As perhaps the most lucrative
‘cash-cow’ milking profession and the support for political power for most of your legislators this should kill the whole idea stone dead for the foreseeable future I think 😉

Whilst a commitment to
‘truth’ sounds good, I must point out that there is no such thing. All
‘truths’ (other than tautologies) are probabilistic issues (in science as elsewhere). In any issue involving humans there is always doubt, always a ‘get-out-clause’ hence the ‘reasonable doubt’ clauses in legal arguments. What I ‘believe’ is the truth may be nothing like it at all, and that goes for anything everyone says or does – ‘Self-delusion is Us’ !

Tim: Finding the near truth is all we can hope for. But good men and women doing their best with humility, humour, common sense, love and compassion should do a much better than what passes for justice today.

Another related issue is that Guardians are said to only get involved when injury is ‘deliberate’. But this is inadequate, does corporate neglect in not recalling faulty cars (since it would affect profits/sales) and resultant carnage count as deliberate ? ‘They’ can’t be ‘proved’ to have ‘deliberately’ caused the crashes – or does this come under ‘or by inaction’ ? Again this is all probabilistic. I’d vote ‘guilty’ (to some extent) if a wise judgement could have predicted the effect. But the world is not totally
‘safe’, even if we do not intend harm, is anyone ‘responsible’ for say mining accidents or falling from scaffolds – it’s a bit of a minefield (another good example !).

Tim: I am throwing out a model. We can work together to make it better.

The idea the Guardians share responsibility with released criminals (if they re-offend) should stop anyone ever being released – bureaucrats always protect their backs you know… Public standards cannot be higher for Guardians than for the rest of us, as they are only human too…

Tim: The Synergic Guardians are just as responsible for keeping someone in too long and releasing someone too early. I think this can be dealt with using the Circles of Safety.
Circles of Safety
Imagine a large rehabilitation containment community structured within concentric circles. The highest security would exist within the central circle. As you moved outward from the center the level of security would diminish and level of freedom for those contained would increase.
In a system with 7 containment zones, as seen in the following diagram, the central zone would be highest security-lowest freedom for containees.
IMAGE ProtectingHumanity16.jpg.
Within the central zone would be humanity�s most dangerous individuals. Caring for these individuals would be humanities best Adversary Behavioral Medicine Specialists including Physicians, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Rehabilitationists, and Maximum Security Containment Officers.
As individuals improved with treatment, and demonstrated safer and more responsible behavior they could migrate outward to the next containment zone. Each zone would require further treatment and education, and continuing observation. Only when a contained individual has demonstrated successful adaptation within a zone for a prescribed period of time could they migrate outward to the next level.
Each zone outward would bring more freedom and with it more responsibility. Zone seven would be 100% secure with no freedom or responsibility. The outermost or Zone One would be very minimally secure the containees experiencing nearly full freedom and high responsibility. Those in outermost or Zone 1 are trusted to remain voluntarily within that zone until they completed their program
Any adversary event which resulted in loss of life would mandate central or Zone Seven containment. As example if minimum time in zone 7 was three years and two years in every other zone. The minimal time of containment for such an event would be 15 years. And what happens after 15 years? Only if the individual contained demonstrated success at every zone with no adversarily behavior for 15 years. Then and only then would they be eligible for release back into human society. And if they could not demonstrate that they were cured, they would never be released.
Incurable adversary behavior would result in Life Containment. Adversary behavior is an illness that endangers others. You only get a release if you are well and are no longer a threat to public safety.
Public Safety is paramount — the amount of time spent within containment is meaningless.

Chris: The Waco affair illustrated this. When people are ‘put in charge’ in crisis situations the public expect them to ‘act’. When those put in charge are gun-toting state thugs i.e. adversarial types whose very language revolves around war vocabulary, i.e. siege) then they will ‘act’ the only way they know how. Why are we surprised at the outcome ? The
‘boss’ has his job/ego to protect, and ‘no-result’ isn’t a socially acceptable solution in terms of U.S. society (a culture of ‘instant’ solutions and short attention span, at least in its portrayal over here ;-). The FBI acted completely ‘in character’.

Tim: We are talking about a different class of people with a different value system.

As for the question of how Guardians are chosen… Well all I can say to that is that I would find it difficult to choose a single person to fulfil than role, and certainly none of our current methods of ‘appointing’ public officials would lead me to expect any less corruption or incompetance than is apparent in todays ‘public servants’ (whose behaviour is neither public nor serving !!).

Tim: Hear! Hear!

Chris Lucas
CALResCo Group Manchester U.K.

Response from Arthur Noll
Subject: Synergic Containment

Many good points, Chris. 

As always, I feel it comes back to survival of the fittest, or shall we say in this case of humanity, survival of the best view of the truth?  As you say, there are many versions of the truth out there.  People are right now betting their lives on their version of truth.

They can’t all be right, unless those that think that many realities exist simultaneously are right.  Not something that I agree with.  If we make our reality, or many realities exist, then the “reality” of past scientists should still be alive, and it is not, it is only in the history books.  Who survives, has the real truth.  Many people try to hedge their bets, and not fully commit to anything, wanting more information, more time to make up their minds.  Yet hedging is a position in itself.  It can totally fail just as other positions can.  I find it curious that many who claim to hedge, really aren’t collecting more information, aren’t doing experiments to resolve the situation.  They are really hiding behind the idea of hedging, since hedging is widely seen as intelligent behavior.  They are unable to logically defend their present position, but liking it, holding to it with the pretense of gathering more information.  Whatever information does come to them,  however, is never enough.  Such people are very apt to exclaim at how terribly complicated everything is.  Yet they have no trouble deciding that they will keep their jobs, houses, other possessions.  In this “terribly, terribly complex world”, this is somehow not a complicated decision that might be wrong.  You would expect someone who was truly troubled by the complexity of things to have tried many things, and have very little, as opposed to the constancy of view needed to accumulate and keep material wealth.  “Ye shall know them by their works”.

And “answer yes or no, anything else comes of evil”.  We can always answer yes or no, even if we don’t know the answer to a question, we can definitely say we don’t know.  And in many situations, we can then go on to truly gather information that allows us to make a yes or no answer with confidence.  People who constantly say, “I don’t know”, often really mean, ” I don’t want to know”.  They might not even be aware that they really don’t want to know.  People often lie to themselves, and believe the lie. Science has been the process of filtering out false views through experience.  It works over time, large majorities of people have come to basic agreements on many things, yet often a generation had to die out before a position became unanimous.  People whose viewpoints were cumbersome and gave uneven results,  eventually died out without making converts to their position.  The present situation should work out in similar fashion.  Whole communities of thought will die out without reproduction, not simply because of inability to make converts, but because people just die and their children and students die as well.  They made the wrong bet, had a faulty view of reality.

All of which is, of course, my version of the truth.  If it is made up of lies I have made up to suit myself, and isn’t based on reality, then it will fail me eventually, and no one should listen.  If that were the case, however, someone ought to be able to point out the discrepancy in my thinking…


Response from Scott McCall
Subject: Synergic Disarmament

Dear Scott,

Thanks for reading and thinking about my ideas. You wrote:
I read your article  on Synergic Disarmament. I found it quite interesting.
I’ve thought about it, and think that perhaps conflict and war will always be. Doesn’t conflict drive evolution? without conflict and war, as bad as they can be, I believe humanity would stagnate. I think no matter how much we all try to make the world safe and prosperous for everyone, there will always be an element big enough to threaten any peace and stability we have achieved.
Our current world is dominated by adversary-neutral society. I am talking about the transition to a synergic society. As I have written elsewhere, What do synergists believe? :

We believe that we must learn to work together. This means we must become synergic humans. Synergy means working together�operating together as in Co-Operation� laboring together as in Co-Laboration�acting together as in Co-Action. The goal of synergic union is to accomplish a larger or more difficult task than can be accomplished by individuals working separately. We are committed to a world where I win, you win, others win and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.

We believe there are three types of humans to be found in our present world. Which type you are depends on what you believe about how the world works.

Adversaries believe there is not enough for everyone and only the physically strong will survive. They believe humans are coercively dependent on others, and they best understand the language of force.

Neutralists believe there is enough for everyone, if only you work hard enough and take care of yourself. They believe humans are financial independent and should be self-sufficient unless they are too lazy or defective. They best understand the language of money.

And, finally a new type of human is still emerging. Synergists believe there is enough for everyone but only if we work together and act responsibly. They believe humans are interdependent and can only obtain sufficiency by working together as community. Synergists best understand the language of love.

But, to be successful in our present world, the synergist must understand all three languages and know when to use them. Synergists must sometimes use the language of force, and sometimes the language of money, it depends on whom they are talking to. However, when synergists are seeking allies�when synergists are seeking to build community�they must speak the language of love.

We believe that you should, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”What is it that most of us want others to do unto us? Synergic scientists answer this question as follows: Help and support others as you would wish them to help and support you.  Or, more simply, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” 

Synergists are trying to heal the wounds inflected by those who don’t understand how the world could work. This then is the essential challenge to the synergists. Can we work together and act responsibly in time to save our ourselves on this planet? … Only by helping each other.

You next write:

Scott: The internet, for example grows stronger and stronger, more secure, and more ingrained in our lives. Hackers, who most consider malicious, are responsible for the level of security and protection we have currently with the internet. Day by day, as viruses spread and hackers test the limits, they actually ensure a secure and strong internet for all of us. Otherwise our infrastructure would be weak and untested against the inevitable mischief that is unleashed upon it.
If there were no hackers, some nutcase, say 10 years from now, could bring down the entire internet because there was never any hacking. Without the intelligence and persistence of hackers constantly searching for any weakness, our information infrastructure we rely upon more and more would be destined for destruction.

As you sow, so shall your reap! If we sow adversity, we will reap adversity. If we sow neutrality, we will reap neutrality. And, if we sow synergy, we will reap synergy.

The internet is more resistant to adversary attacks today, because it has successfully reacted and adjusted to the adversary attacks of the hackers. Do you really think we should thank the hackers for making the internet more secure from hacking. If so then should we thank the wife beaters for allowing us to build domestic shelters?

How about a world where people don’t hurt each other. Why don’t we try to build a world like that?
Scott:  9/11 will change america forever. And I can’t say it wont be for the better in maybe 50-100 years. Every conflict has a winner. The winner may take casualties, but the experience strengthens those who survive the fight. I belive the civilized world will survive.
As much as I would like to see peace and never see war first hand, I belive that no nation or world consensus can stop war and conflict. There will always be that miniscule seed of opposition that is strong enough to test our strength.
I understand your feelings and beliefs, but the problem of adversity must be solved. Since human knowing can grow without limit, and human tools can become evermore powerful without limit. We reach a point, where leveraged adversity. Adversity leveraged with knowing and tools, becomes so powerful it threatens the survival of all life on the planet. That time is now!
I dont think it means that America or the civilized world are doomed. I think that ‘al quaida n company’ are the necessary evil we can never completely eliminate and will test our will endlessly.
I do belive that perhaps there is a point where we overcome conflict and guide our own evolution through conscious choice through genetic engineering, rather than through bloody conflict. Unfortunatley, the thought of humans controlling our evolutionary destiny is some seriously scary shit! It has already begun…
The future IS, and has always been, WEIRD and SCARY.
Take care,

I agree, the world is a very dangerous place. We have huge problems and adversity will not help us solve them. We humans must grow up. The genetic manipulation you talk about makes my point. What happens when someone creates a truely dangerous virus, toxin, or plague?

Thanks for writing,


Follow up to Scott McCall’s above letter

Hey Scott,
You wrote:
I have always believed in the potential within us all. I suppose that I too am a synergist. I think that a synergic future is where us humans are supposed to be headed. How do we deal with the never ending supply of ignornant and violent poeple? It seems so impossible to change perceptions of people, especially those who are noneducated, poor, and desperate.

We must slowly educate all who are open to learn. We must live as synergists. Help when ever we can. Try not to hurt or ignore.

I think perhaps the Internet is our sort of “embrionic synergic back-bone”. It’s the information nervous system of humanity, in its still early stage. It is destined to evolve into something that probbably none of us can imagine.

I am with you here. I think that as humanity begins to earnestly work together it will be internet that connects us and allows to co-ordinate our actions.

Maybe the only way we will truly become a synergic society is when humanity faces a universal threat like a nice sized asteroid, alien invasion, or a rapid, out-of-control climate change that forces everyone to work together.

I think we are already facing that universal threat. I think it is our collective ignorance. I wonder if we will wake up in time ?

Do you think in 500 years we’ll be the BORG? lol

Well the BORG are an adversary race. So not like the BORG. Will we be as connected as they?  Will we incorporate machine intelligence and tools within our bodys? I think we just might. Certainly a lot of good scientists think so.

Thanks for writing,


Scott McCall Final Comment

heeh I never thought about a “good borg”…. of course!

thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!


Front Page

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Revised from the 2002 SynEARTH Archives. … We continue with the fifth in our SafeEARTH series. See: 1) Beyond Crime and Punishment, 2) Synergic Containment: Protecting Children, 3) Synergic Containment: Science & Rationale, and 4) Synergic Containment: Protecting Community

Synergic Disarmament

Interestingly, the recent advent of the Washington D.C. area sniper has brought renewed interest in the subject of weapons and their role in our present society. We are reminded that today, weapons are very easily available to just about anyone that wants them. And, while the technology to track these weapons and even the ammunition used within them is easily possible, we don’t do it, since this might infringe on the American citizen’s Right to bear Arms.

In a synergic society there is no need to be armed. Even within our present adversary-neutral society, weapons in the hands of law abiding “good” citizens seem to bring society little benefit. And certainly, weapons in the hands of criminals and predators bring great harm to the public. Any scientific analysis of the role of weapons in modern America would reveal that weapons are not only plentiful and easily available, but that they are also very powerful.

One gift of  human intelligence is that it allows humanity to create knowing without limit. Every generation knows more than the previous generation. When humans incorporate their knowing into artifacts, they are called tools. Unlimited knowing produces unlimited tools. Every generation has more powerful tools than the previous one.
As I have explained elsewhere, we humans always have three options in relating to others. We can help each other, we can ignore each other, or we can hurt each other. When tools are used to hurt others, we are call them weapons.
Now humans have been making weapons for a long time. Weapons are tools designed to hurt or kill others. As our human knowing has grown, we have always quickly incorporated that knowing into our new weapons. And as a result, weapons have and continue to grow evermore powerful.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman writing in the Evolution of Weaponry explains:

Humans have proven themselves to be infinitely ingenious at creating and using devices to overcome their limitations. From one perspective human history can be seen as a series of ever-more-efficient devices to help humans communicate, travel, trade, work, and even to think. Similarly, the history of violence, peace, and conflict can be seen as the history, or the evolution, of a series of ever-more-efficient devices to enable humans to kill and dominate their fellow human beings.

The concept of an “evolution” of weaponry is very appropriate, since the battlefield is the ultimate realm of Darwinian natural selection. With few exceptions, any weapon or system that survives for any length of time does so because of its utility. Nothing survives for long on the battlefield simply because of superstition. Anything that is effective is copied and perpetuated, anything ineffective results in death, defeat, and extinction. There are fads and remnants (the military equivalent of the appendix), but over the long run, everything happens for a reason, and a valid theory of weapons evolution must make these reasons clear, explaining all extinctions and all survivals. …

Weapons’ lethality (in peace and war) is a factor of the effectiveness of the weapons used to kill and of the ability of available medical technology to save lives. Thus, weapons’ lethality can be thought of as a contest between weapons’ effectiveness (the state of technology trying to kill you) and medical effectiveness (the state of technology trying to save you). Like weapons’ lethality, the difference between murder (killing someone) and aggravated assault (trying to kill someone) is also largely a factor of the effectiveness of available weapons vs. the effectiveness of available medical life-saving technology.

Throughout most of human history the effectiveness of weapons available for domestic violence was basically stable, a relative constant. The relative effectiveness of swords, axes, and blunt objects has been basically unchanged, and killing (as an act of passion vs. a pre-meditated act like poisoning or leaving a bomb) was only possible at close-range by stabbing, hacking, and beating.

Bows were kept unstrung, not in a state of readiness for an act of passion. It required premeditation plus training plus strength to kill with a bow. Early, muzzle-loading gunpowder weapons were also often not kept in a state of readiness. It required time, training, and premeditation to load and shoot such a weapon. Once loaded, the humidity in the air could seep into the gunpowder and the load could become unreliable. Only in the late 19th century, with widespread introduction of breech-loading, brass cartridges was a true act of passion possible with state-of-the-art weapons technology. Powerful weapons could now be kept in state of readiness (i.e., loaded), and they now required minimal strength or training to use.

ca. 1700 B.C. Chariots provide key form of mobility advantage in ancient warfare
ca. 400 B.C. Greek phalanx slows the chariots, since horses consistently refuse to hurl themselves into a hedge of sharp projecting spears
ca. 100 B.C. Roman system (pilum, swords, training, professionalism, leadership)
ca. 900 A.D. Mounted knight (stirrup greatly enhances utility of mounted warfare)
ca. 1350 Gunpowder (cannon) in warfare (Battle of Crecy, 1346)
ca. 1400 Widespread application of long bow defeats mounted knights ( Battle of Agincourt, I4I5)
ca. 1600 Gunpowder (small arms) in warfare, defeats aIl body armor (30 Years War & English Civil War)
ca. 1800 Shrapnel (exploding artillery shells), ultimately creates renewed need for helmets (ca. 1915)
ca. 1850 Percussion caps permit all-weather use of small arms
ca. 1870 Breech loading, cartridge firing rifles, and pistols™
ca. 1915 Machine gun
ca. 1915 Gas warfare
ca. 1915 Tanks
ca. 1915 Aircraft
ca. 1915 Self-loading (automatic) rifles and pistols
ca. 1940 Strategic bombing of population centers
ca. 1945 Nuclear weapons
ca. 1960 Large scale introduction of operant conditioning in training to enable killing in soldiers
ca. 1970 Precision guided munitions
This then is our real problem. Weapons in our modern society are not only too plentiful and too easily available, but they are also way too powerful and easy to use.
Speaking just this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, “Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before,” he said. It has been a mistake, he added, to measure the quantity of forces required for a mission and “fail to look at lethality, where you end up with precision-guided munitions which can give you 10 times the lethality that a dumb weapon might, as an example.”


KnowHow, we shouldn’t have!

Timothy Wilken, MD

One of my areas of interest and study is human intelligence science. The reason human intelligence is so powerful is because of the synergic relationship between two powerful minds—the space mind and the time mind. This “dual mind” intelligence is capable of generating four distinct levels of knowingKnowWhere, KnowWhen, KnowHow, and KnowWhy. I am currently completing a new book on Understanding Human Intelligence which will explain the Dual Mind and the four levels of knowing which it produces.
A simple metaphor for these four levels of knowing are:
KnowWhere: Where do I go in space to survive. Where do I get water, food, shelter?
KnowWhen: When do I act in time to encourage or stop a sequence of events.
KnowHow: How do many different temporal sequences fit together to create spatial complexity.
KnowWhy: Why do things happen the way they do? What is the consequence of complexity?
A human with KnowWhere would know where they should go to avoid a nuclear explosion. Where can I go to be safe.
A human with KnowWhen could learn when to detonate a nuclear weapon. When to a push the button and in what sequence to trigger the bomb.
A person with KnowHow could understand how to invent and design a nuclear weapon. How do the laws of physics work together and what temporal sequences must I create to allow nuclear fission or fusion to occur.
A person with KnowWhy, would know why nuclear weapons should never be invented or manufactured. What are the consequences of using nuclear power as weapons? What happens when such weapons are common? What happens if they fall into the hands of those dominated anger and ignorance. Why was it be a bad idea to create nuclear weapons?
With our new understanding of human intelligence, it will soon be possible for many humans to learn to understand their minds and began accessing the higher levels of knowing. As they do they will gain increasing understanding of sequence and consequence. But, today most humans live their lives in the level of KnowWhere with only occasional visits to the level of  KnowWhen. Educated people with high literacy, good understanding of mathematics and science may live their lives equally in the levels of KnowWhere and KnowWhen with occasional flashes of genius in the level of KnowHow. Inventors, innovators, and what we commonly call creative geniuses live in KnowWhere and KnowWhen, but have learned to easily visit the level of KnowHow. But, so far only a handful of human geniuses have learned to easily access the level of KnowWhy.
Tools Contain Embedded KnowHow
Recall from the introduction, that tools are artifacts made from matter-energy that contain embedded knowing. And, as there is no limit to human knowing, there is also no limit to the amount of knowing that can be embedded in an artifact. That is why we have such powerful tools. Today’s tools commonly contain embedded information, knowledge and wisdom.
Think of the power of the tools we humans use everyday—a Boeing 747 airplane, our automobiles, the internet, computers, cell phones, televisions, household appliances, the tools in our garages and at our places of work. The knowing in these tools multiply our human power by orders of magnitude. They allow us to do what was considered impossible just a few years ago. It is the power of the knowing embedded in these tools that give them their power.
Using Tools without Understanding
You don’t have to be wise to use a tool full of wisdom. You don’t even have to be knowledgeable to use such a tool. Many of our fast food restaurants, use picture icons of the food and drinks on the buttons of the check out computers, so that the illiterate and innumerate humans working there can operate the computers without reading, adding or subtracting. The computer even tells the operator the correct amount of change to return to the customer.
However, there is risk in using tools you don’t understand. Remember, “a little knowing can be a dangerous thing.” Today, we commonly put enormously powerful tools into the hands of those who do not understand them. This means the risk of these tools being used in an unsafe manner is high.
And since weapons are just tools that are specifically designed to hurt or kill, they are among the most dangerous tools  in our present world. Today, weapons are easily available to anyone who desires them. They can be purchased legally by any adult who passes a background check for a criminal record. If you are not a convicted felon, you can legally purchase all the weapons and ammunition you desire. You are not legally required to be literate, numerate, or have any knowledge of science or physics.
You are not required to demonstrate any knowledge of weapons or the consequence of their use or misuse, before becoming armed. And of course, there is no psychological screening to determine if you are stable and responsible.
As to felons, minors, or non-citizens—anyone wishing to avoid the background check of legal purchase—they can easily purchase weapons  illegally in almost any town in America.
Why are weapons  so easily available ?
We don’t let just anyone operate a nuclear powerplant, a 767 Boeing Airliner, or for that matter an automobile, without some training, education and testing. But we will sell a gun to anyone who can afford it. After all we just want to make money. And, of course every American possesses the Right to Bear Arms. The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (1791)
The result of America’s policy of easy availability of weapons is reflected in these grim statistics from the CDC:
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports that in 1999, there were 28,874 firearm-related deaths in the United States. By contrast, there were only 19 firearm-related deaths in Japan in 1998. Gun possession is prohibited in Japan.
Rates of homicide among American youths 15-19 years of age reached record-high levels in the latter half of the 1980s and continue to be among the highest ever recorded in the US for this age group. Between 1985 and 1991, annual homicide rates among males 15-19 years old increased 154 percent.
  • In 2001, homicide was still the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds overall. In this age group, it is the leading cause of death for African Americans, the second leading cause of death for Hispanic Americans, and the third leading cause of death for Native Americans (CDC 2001).
  • In 1999, 4,998 youths ages 15 to 24 were murdered – an average of 14 per day (CDC 2001).
  • Guns are a factor in most youth homicides. In 1999, 81% of homicide victims ages 15 to 24 were killed with firearms (CDC 2001).
It must be obvious to the reader, that manufacturing unlimited tools and unlimited weapons, and then placing them in the hands of ignorance is foolish.
Humanity as Community
Synergic society seeks to protect humanity as community and humanity as individuals. No responsible parent would allow a four year old child to use a blow torch, a power saw, or a nail gun unsupervised. No responsible parent would allow a ten year old to drive the family car on the interstate highway.
Why not? Because these tools are just too powerful to be used without adequate knowledge, education and training.

KnowHow, they shouldn’t have.

This is our problem today. People have KnowHow, they shouldn’t have. They have access to enormously powerful tools and weapons—tools and weapons containing embedded KnowHow—that they are shouldn’t have access too.
The Saudi terrorists that attacked America on  September 11, were not geniuses. None of them could have invented a Boeing 767 or even a cell phone. None of them could have even explained how these tools even worked. However, they were allowed to use deceit, and threat of force to gain control of these enormously powerful tools, and then use these tools as weapons to bring down the World Trade Towers and damage the Pentagon.
By embedding wisdom into tools and then selling those tools to anyone with money, we endanger humanity as individuals and humanity as community.
Today, we need a higher standard. Most advanced tools today contain embedded KnowHow. Those who use such tools need to well trained and intelligent enough to understand the consequence of using such powerful tools. Access to powerful tools (tools leveraged with wisdom) that could potentially harm others must be controlled. Only those humans who demonstrate: 1) the knowledge for the safe use of the tool, 2) an understanding of consequence of that tool’s use and misuse, and 3) a history of responsibility, should be allowed access to them. 
Iraq & Saddam Hussein
How many Nobel Prizes have been awarded to Iraq in science, physics, biology, or medicine? How many for Peace?
Did Iraqi scientists invent the automobile? The airplane? The telephone? The radio? The television? The computer? If they don’t have the intelligence to invent or even manufacture any of these tools, how did they get them?
They bought them with money. 
Where did they get the money? They got it by selling the oil discovered under the desert they live on. Did they discover the oil themselves? No it was discovered by engineers from the West. What makes this oil even theirs? An accident of birth and the mistaken belief that oil is property.
As I have discussed elsewhere, the land and natural resources are wealth provided to us by God and Nature. The sunshine, air, water, land, minerals, and the earth itself all come to us freely. The Earth’s land and natural resources are not products of the human mind or body. They existed long before life and humankind even emerged on our planet. There exists no moral or rational basis for any individual to claim them as Property. If a claim of ownership can be made at all, it must be a claim on behalf of all humanity both the living and those yet unborn.The Iraqis have no moral or rational basis to even claim ownership of the oil. It is only our mistaken belief that oil is property, and specifically the property of those who happen to be living over the deposit that allows this fiction to fly.
Did the Iraqis invent and manufacture oil drilling and refining technology? No, they bought this technology with money loaned to them by Western banks based on future repayment once the oil was extracted.
If you take away the oil money, and limit them to those tools invented and manufactured in Iraq, there would be no danger to anyone. Saddam Hussein would have been impaled on a sharp stick long ago.
We Americans must recogize that we have flooded the world with billions of high powered tools and weapons in order to make money. All the great democracies are guilty. But, the biggest exporter of tools and weapons in the history of the planet is the United States. We Americans are the most guilty. We have basically sold these tools and weapons to anyone with the money to buy them. That has been our only criteria.
Now let us look once again at the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Somehow, we have focused on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, but have overlooked the founding fathers purpose in writing the second amendment: that of insuring “a well-regulated Militia“. A mob with guns is not a “well-regulated Militia.”
Public Safety requires responsible use of powerful tools and weapons. We need to recognize the potential danger in the use of tools and weapons in our present society. We must establish some standard of knowledge, training, and responsibility as a prerequisite to gaining access to these tools and weapons.
Protecting Us from the Police

Some will argue that we need a private right to weapons to protect us from the police. This argument misses the point. In an earlier article of this SafeEARTH series, I introduced the concept of the Life Trust Guardians and their enforcement arm the Synergic Containment Officers.
Life Trust Guardians and Synergic Containment Officers are not the police, they are synergists. They will be well educated and trained. They will understand the powerful tools they use and the consequence of both the use and missuse of those tools. Remember, synergists believe that we should work together and act responsibly to make the world work for everyone. Synergy means working together—operating together as in Co-Operation— laboring together as in Co-Laboration—acting together as in Co-Action. The goal of synergic union is to accomplish a larger or more difficult task than can be accomplished by individuals working separately. Synergists are committed to a world where I win, you win, others win and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.

Best of the Best

Synergic Containment Officers are Life Trust Guardians. The Life Trust will seek to attract the best of the best as candidates for Trust Guardianship. Once selected these Trust Guardians would have greater trusteeship privileges with concomitant authority and responsibilities for and to the Life Trust.  

Trust Guardian Candidates should have repeatedly demonstrated both personal and public honesty, and should have a history demonstrating synergic morality and behavior. In the future, Universities will offer degrees in Trustegrity and Guardian Science to prepare those young humans to desire to serve Humanity as Community. A careful selection process will be developed to select the very best which could include Trust Guardian Academies.

It is apparent that the responsibilities of Trust Guardians will be great. They of course are not allowed to hurt anyone through their control of the Synergic Trusts. But in addition they are required to protect and conserve the Synergic Trusts. Further, they are required to help others and to insure that all humans have the basic needs of life —both survival and meaning. This is a binding obligation. Failure to meet these obligations results in the immediate loss of Synergic Trustee privileges. The Life Trust Guardians will be charged with protecting Humanity as Community, and Humanity as Individuals.

Public safety is paramount. No human has the right to injure another human with an adversary action. Once such an event has occurred, those responsible will be contained, they will be monitored and their freedom restricted until such time as the Life Trust Guardians have determined that they are safe without monitoring or restriction. This process is described more completely in Synergic Containment: Science & Rationale and Synergic Containment: Branch Davidian Compound, Waco, TX.
If the Life Trust Guardians release them from monitoring or restrictions, and they hurt someone else with another adversary action, then the Life Trust Guardians involved in their release will share responsibility with them for that adversary event. Life Trust Guardians are held accountable for failure to protect the public. This is a much higher standard then offered by today’s criminal injustice system.
No Knives, No Guns, No Killing!

One hundred and twenty years ago the American West was a vast, open area brimming with natural resources and opportunity. Cow towns and mining camps sprung up across the landscape. From around the world, millions of people flocked to the Western territories with the hope of making a better life for themselves. Many came to find gold or silver. Others came to open saloons, general stores, and other small businesses. And still others came to steal from the productive members of the west.

It was in such a setting that Wyatt Earp lived and worked. Like many of his time, he skipped from one boom town to another, always optimistic that his fortune awaited at the end of another long, dusty ride. And in nearly every town he invariably found himself called upon to bring law and order to what was previously anarchy. Earp’s exploits in taming lawless cow towns and mining camps and his bravery in facing ruthless killers—particularly at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona—make him one of the great figures of the American West. While the movies make much of the gunfights and use of intimidation in the streets of Dodge City. Earp’s greatest tool was the prohibition of weapons within the city limits. His rule was simple: “no knives, no guns, no killings.”

The history of the American West, is in large part the struggle to overcome  adversity. Earp’s discovery of a mechanism to insure public safety spread. By the summer of 1876, Denver was slightly larger than Dallas, although not a mite different as far as being fronted by the inevitable plankwalks and halter-polished hitch rails. A sign posted at the edge of town warned: “No guns in town.” This law was strictly enforced.

Zone of Safety

What Wyatt Earp achieved with his “No Guns in Town” law was the creation of a zone of safety. Within city limits there could be no guns. Apparently Earp understood that “guns do kill people.” Guns are weapons. By excluding them from the town, he was using a principle of synergic containment and disarmament.

We need to create a zone of safety. And, then we can begin to extend that zone. We need to protect those within the zone and isolate those outside the zone. This is how the immune system in our body works. The skin is the boundary for the body. Its job is to isolate all adversity from the interior. We need to create a skin around our safety zone. That isolates all adversity from the interior.

Within the safety zone, there should be no tolerance of adversity. None!

No violence would be allowed. No weapons would be allowed. Violation would result in expulsion from the safety zone. Committed Adversaries would be expelled from synergic community. They would be expelled from the zone of safety. And that zone of safety is not anonymous. Everyone is the zone is know. The immune system of our bodies knows every cell. Unknowns are presumed to be adversaries until proven otherwise. Freedom and privacy is available to all who do not hurt others. Injure someone and forfeit both.

It is time to put away the adversary way.There is no need for weapons in the zone of safety. In civilized community, the simple possession of a weapon is an adversary act. It must be surrendered immediately and voluntarily, or you leave the zone of safety.

Living in the zone of safety is not a right, it is a privilege available to civilized humanity. Civilized humans do not want or need weapons.

I believe it is time to create and then extend zones of safety. This is the only way the Israelis can make their people safe. No knives, no guns, no killings! None. The same is true for all nations. Except for small arms in the hands of Synergic Containment Officers charged with protecting both Humanity as Individuals and Humanity as Community, it is time to put away all weapons.

Pandora’s Box
What do we do now? Now that these powerful tools and weapons are in the hands of ignorance and anger, how do we get them back.

We must begin by regaining control of all those tools and weapons that threaten humanity. Our message to Saddam Hussein, and all who would act to harm humanity. If you want peace lay down your weapons. All of them. This must be our message to all those who are armed.

It is time for a complete and total disarmament. Within the human body reside 40 trillion individual cells, none are armed except the immune cells. Within a synergic organization which could reside all of humanity presently 6.3 billion humans. None would be armed except Synergic Containment Officers.

Universal Disarmament

During a period of moratorium, all humans would be expected to surrender all weapons into the custody of the Life Trust Guardians. A few of these weapons would go into museums, some would be be made available to the public within Earth Trust hunting parks and designated sport weapons clubs. Humans who desire to use weapons to hunt and kill animals may do so only within designated hunting parks managed by the Earth Trust Guardians and regulated by the Synergic Containment Officers.

Those humans who desire to use weapons for sport shooting may do so only through designated sport weapon clubs which are regulated and monitored by the Synergic Containment Officers. All weapons must be kept on the premises of the sports clubs, or within the grounds of the hunting parks. These weapons will be montored and accounted for under strict Life Trust Guardian guidelines.

However, the vast majority of weapons would be destroyed and scraped. Once the moratorium expires, the possession of a weapon outside of a permitted location is prohibited, and is by definition an adversary event. The Life Trust Guardians will dispense Containment Officers to confiscate the weapon or weapons and take those responsible into custody. Those individuals found responsible for weapons possession would be subject to the same public safety process as any other human found responsible for an adversary event including rehabilitation, education, restitution, and prevention of future adversary events.

How dangerous would the Washington D.C. sniper be without a gun and ammuntion? How dangerous would Saddam Hussein be without his weapons?

Read more by Timothy Wilken: 1) A Synergic Future 2) Protecting Humanity 3) Beyond War

Read Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s: 1) Aggression and Violence 2) Evolution of Weaponry  3) Psychological Effects of Combat.

Front Page

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

From the 2002 SynEARTH Archives. … We continue with the fourth in our SafeEARTH series. See: 1) Beyond Crime and Punishment 2) Synergic Containment: Protecting Children 3) Synergic Containment: Science & Rationale

Synergic Containment of Adversary Events

Protecting Community

Timothy Wilken, MD

Synergic Containment Officers are responsible for containment of adversary events.


Their first task will be to contain the adversary event, and prevent the event from spreading further into community and involving new victims. 


Containment is about protecting both the victim and the aggressor. Synergic society does not view the perpetrators as bad or criminal. However, they certainly recognize that they are dangerous. Recall from our initial discussion of using synergic containment to protect children, we are seeking to contain and protect all the individuals caught up in an adversary event—both victims and perpetrators.

Synergic Rescue 

Once the adversary event has been contained, the second task of the Synergic Containment Officers becomes to safely rescue all of the individuals caught up in the event. This rescue is prioritized. First to be rescued are victims at greatest risk for further harm, then victims at lower risk. Once the victims are safe, the synergic containment officers will begin their rescue of the perpetrators.

 Synergic Disarmament

If those perpetrating the adversary event have weapons, they must be disarmed. Today, the danger of adversary events is greatly magnified by access to weapons. We humans are Time-binders. That means as a species we can create knowledge without limit. When we incorporate knowledge into matter-energy it is called a tool. Because knowledge can grow without limit, tools can also grow without limit. When tools are used to hurt others, they are called weapons. In our modern world, we have created ever more powerful weapons. These weapons are not safe in the hands of ignorance.

Once the perpetrators of an adversary event are contained, their victims rescued, then they will be disarmed, this must be effected before they can be rescued.

How would this work in the real world?  Let us examine a real situation.

The Adversary Containment of the Branch Davidian Church, Waco, TX

Most Americans recall this incident from 1993. The following are the facts as reported by PBS:FRONTLINE:

Sunday, February 28, 1993: At about 9:30 a.m. agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempt to execute arrest and search warrants against David KORESH and the Branch Davidian compound as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives there. Gunfire erupts. Four ATF agents are killed and 16 are wounded. An undetermined number of Davidians are killed and injured. Within a few hours, the FBI becomes the lead agency for resolving the standoff.

The FBI would institute a siege of the compound that would last 51 days.

After 51 days of standoff, Attorney General Janet Reno authorized a tear gas attack. Reno has cited a number of factors to explain why she endorsed the tear-gas plan. She has said that she had concluded that negotiations with the Branch Davidians were indefinitely stalemated, that the FBI’s hostage rescue team on duty at Waco was becoming fatigued, that the security perimeter established by the FBI around the compound was endangered and that the children inside the compound were at risk because of deteriorating sanitary conditions and the potential for sexual and physical abuse.

Monday, April 19, 1993: At 6:02 a.m., two FBI combat engineering vehicles, or CEVs, begin inserting gas into the compound through spray nozzles attached to a boom. At 6:04 a.m., the Davidians start shooting, and the FBI begin deploying Bradley vehicles to insert ferret rounds through the windows. At 6:31, the HRT reports that the entire building is being gassed. At about 7 a.m., RENO and senior advisors go to the FBI situation room. At 7:30, a CEV breaches the front side of the building on the first floor as it injects gas, and at 7:58 a.m., gas is inserted in the second floor of the back-right corner of the building. The FBI calls for more gas from outside Waco, and at 9:20 a.m., 48 more ferret rounds arrive from Houston.

At 11:40 a.m., the last ferret rounds are delivered. At 11:45 a.m., a wall on the right-rear side of the building collapses. At 12:07 p.m., There is the start of “simultaneous fires at three or more different locations within the compound.” Fire quickly consumes the compound.


According to medical examiners who performed the autopsies, CS gas did not directly kill any of the more than 80 Branch Davidians, including 22 children, who died in the fire on April 19. … Other experts have told FRONTLINE that CS gas may have totally incapacitated the children and others so that when the fire occurred, it would have rendered them incapable of escape. (4)

Synergic Containment of the Branch Davidian Church

This is not a criticism of the federal officers who were involved in the Adversary Containment at the Branch Davidian Church (BDC). Clearly the members of that church were heavily armed and dangerous. Four Federal ATF officers lost their lives and 16 were wounded in the first encounter on February 28. I would suggest that the mechanism of adversary containment is more dangerous for both the containment officers and for those being contained.

As a thought experiment, how would synergic containment work differently than adversary containment?

Remember, the goal of synergic containment is the protection of both humanity as community, and humanity as individuals. This goal could best be achieved by isolation of the BDC members and then disarming them. Once they were disarmed they would be taken into protective custody. All custody by Synergic Containment Officers is protective. Their mission is protection.

It was strongly suspected and later confirmed that the Branch Davidian members were heavily armed and dangerous. A Synergic Containment Force would act cautiously. They would encircle and establish a strong perimeter completely surrounding the compound. This perimeter would well back from the compound outside of rifle range. 


Remember the three tasks of the Synergic Containment Officers–contain, rescue, disarm.

Once the perimeter is contained the next step is the creation of one or more rescue corridors. These are protected passages to points as close to the center of the adversary event as possible to facilitate the rescue of individuals caught up in the event.


In addition to observation from the perimeter and rescue corridor, the compound under be put under continuous observation from closer, but well protected observation sites, and communication established with the Church members. The church members would be unable to militarily engage the Containment Force without leaving the protection of their compound.

Those within the compound would then be ordered to put down their weapons and move out to the perimeter to voluntarily enter into protective custody. Those being contained would have a short time to voluntarily surrender. If there was no response, or a hostile response, the Synergic Containment Force would begin Containment Isolation of  the compound.

Once Containment Isolation is implemented, nothing goes in. Access to electricity, television, telephone, water, food and all outside supplies are a privilege to members of community in good standing. That privilege is suspended. Nothing goes in. Every thing would stop! Then the Containment Force would sit back and wait for them to come out.

Any unarmed member of the church could leave anytime by simply presenting to the rescue corridor for safe escort to the perimeter where they could voluntarily enter protective custody. Once out, no one goes back in unless and until Synergic Containment is lifted.

The compound would not be stormed or attacked in anyway. No barrage of noise, loud music, or teargas. They would be left to themselves without phones, television, newspapers, mail, electricity, water, etc.etc.. They are not being punished. The benefits of community are being suspended until they cease all adversity. I expect that most of the members would have come out and surrendered. Perhaps not all.

Once each day, the containment force would explicitly communicate with the contained adversaries, reminding them that safety, food, water, shelter and medical care wait for them at the perimeter. It would be made clear that to exit the containment zone, they need only put down their weapons and present to the rescue corridor, or perimeter. Any individual—adult or child—that did so would be given protection including water, food, medical care and shelter.

Why would they give up?

In today’s world, criminals that have been adversarily contained by the police feel they have nothing to lose. They may be surrounded by heavily armed swat teams looking to take them out with a long range shot. If they survive capture, they face trial, imprisonment, and sentences range from a few years to life in prison and can even be put to death by the state for a capital crime. This leads to an environment where trapped criminals may feel they have nothing to lose by shooting it out with the police.

Within Synergic Society, the Life Trust Guardians Division of Public Safety works differently. Once those caught up in an adversary event are contained and are in protective custody, the rest of the public safety process unfolds:

Scientific Investigation and Analysis of the Adversary Event

The Life Trust Guardians will assign public safety scientists to investigate and scientifically analyze the adversary event. These Science Officers are responsible for determining the true facts of the adversary event.

Remember mistakes are caused by ignorance, even those mistakes that injure people and seem deliberate. Science Officers will seek to determine what were the causes of the mistakes that led to the adversary event, and what specifically needs to be learned by the responsible parties to prevent further adversary events.

It is also their mission to determine who were the individuals responsible for the event. Those individuals who freely admit their responsibility for an adversary event will enter directly into the Education and Restitution phase. Those individuals accused of adversary action claiming innocence are entitled to a responsibility hearing.

Responsibility Hearing

Conducted by Hearing Officers, this is an evidentiary process which includes the scientific interrogation of both the alleged adversaries and the victims of the adversary event. The responsibility hearing differs from a criminal trial in significant ways. First, the end result of the responsibility hearing does not lead to punishment, it leads to education, rehabilitation, and restitution. Secondly, it is not an adversarial procedure. There is no prosecutor and no defense. No one is trying to hurt anyone in this process. The Responsibility Hearing is to determine the truth.

The needs and the safety of humanity as community takes precedent over the needs and safety of humanity as individuals. Truth has a higher value then fairness. Since no one is going to be punished, all parties are required to tell the truth. No human has the right to hurt another human. Public safety is paramount, and the truth will be the determining factor.

All parties may be interrogated by the Life Trust Guardians’ Hearing Officers utilizing any scientific techniques that are safe and effective. This could include hypnosis, lie detector technology, drug augmented interrogation, and new technologies and techniques not yet invented. In a synergic culture, you can be required to testify against yourself, or your spouse. There are no privileged conversations between lawyers and clients because there are no lawyers and clients. The truth will out. The purpose of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the American Constitution were to protect Free and Independent Citizens from an Adversary State. It was thought that if you could be made to testify against yourself, you could be tortured to confess to crimes you did not commit. This of course was true in an Adversary world with an Adversary State.

In a synergic culture, all Synergic Trust Guardians are held to the highest standards — they cannot hurt others, and in fact must help others. This standard applies as well to the Life Trust Guardians’ Containment, Science, and Hearing Officers.

If the officers of the Life Trust Guardians injure others in the course of their duties, they are subject to the same rules of public safety and are 100% responsible for their actions. They cannot torture anyone. They are also required to tell the truth and are also subject to scientific interrogation if accused of hurting others.

This commitment to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth eliminates all of today’s legal loop holes that allows dangerous committed criminals to be released back to the public streets and have access to new victims. Once the Responsibility Hearing has been concluded and it has been determined who was responsible, the next phase of the process can begin.

Rehabilitation and Education of those Responsible 

Within a synergic society, Rehabilitation Officers are responsible for this phase. These Officers include Physicians, Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Teachers. Adversary behavior in a synergic culture is viewed as a psychiatric disease or adversary mental illness. Those responsible for dangerous and/or severe adversary events would be required to undergo extensive psychiatric and psychological evaluation to determine the extent of their adversary mental illness. They would then enter into a comprehensive treatment program.

If they were deemed a continuing public safety risk, they would surrender their freedom during treatment. No human has the right to hurt another human. They would remain incarcerated until they were cured. If they were never cured, they would never be released. As our knowledge of adversary mental disorders improved and as new techniques and therapies were created, we would gain in our ability to successfully treat and cure these disorders.

Once their adversary illnesses, were deemed cured, they would move forward to the educational program. Here they would join other individuals found free of adversary mental illness. In this educational phase, all individuals deemed responsible for an adversary event would undergo a program specifically designed for them to correct the errors and mistakes that led to their specific adversary event.  Once they completed their educational phase they would be  tested.

Rehabilitation Testing of those Responsible

These tests are to verify that those responsible have learned how to avoid future Adversary Events. Once the Rehabilitation Officers find an individual has fully recovered and is no longer a threat to the public safety. Once they have completed the program and demonstrated the understanding and knowledge necessary to avoid such events in the future, they would move on to the restitution phase.

Restitution Agreements by those Responsible

In a synergic culture where not hurting others is required, and helping others is highly encouraged, restitution will be an important and common phenomena. Most of the time injuries to others will be accidental. All humans will make mistakes and often those mistakes will hurt others. Restitution is the mechanism of repair. We can’t always fix things, but we can always sincerely apologize and offer restitution.

The Life Trust Guardianship only gets involved when the injuries are deliberately caused by adversary actions. Following successful rehabilitation and education, documented with successful testing, then monitored restitution is mandatory.

Prevention of Future Adversary Events

Public safety is paramount. No human has the right to injure another human with an adversary action. Once such an event has occurred and you are found responsible you may be monitored and your freedom restricted until such time as the Life Trust Guardians have determined that you are safe without monitoring or restriction.

If the Life Trust Guardians release you from monitoring or restrictions and you hurt someone else in the future with another adversary action, then the Life Trust Guardians and the specific Officers involved in your release share responsibility with you for the adversary event. They are held accountable for failure to protect the public. This is a much higher standard then offered by today’s criminal justice system.

Prevention Agreements for Future Monitoring and Restrictions

Here, Rehabilitation Officers in co-laboration with the Prevention Officers will work together to determine what specific level of monitoring, surveillance, and personal freedom restrictions are necessary for the public safety. Because these officers share responsibility for future events with the perpetrators it is in their best interest to get it right. All terms and conditions will be negotiated in this phase. The responsible adversaries will take an active role in this negotiation. They will voluntarily enter into the Prevention Agreements as a condition for restoration of community privileges.  Periodically, reviews would occur and terms and conditions modified as appropriate. 

Future Monitoring

The final phase of the Rule of Public Safety is the responsibility of the Prevention Officers. In a synergic culture, humans found responsible for adversary actions even terrible adversary actions are not criminals. They are not felons. They are not punished. But they are contained. Life Trust Guardians will utilize the most advanced containment technology available — this could include implanted transponders and continuous monitoring systems.Whenever possible the responsible adversaries will be allowed to return to their lives and families. Even when incarcerated to the extent possible their lives will be normalized. This is discussed further in Protecting Humanity.


But, what about those members of the Branch Davidian Church who refuse to surrender? What if they don’t give up? Will Synergic Containment Officers ever storm such a compound?

The situation that faced the Federal Officers of the ATF and FBI in Waco Texas in 1993, was very dangerous. In the first encounter the ATF lost 4 officers dead and 16 wounded.
Many of the male members of BDC were military trained and all were  heavily armed. Most were barricaded inside a steel reinforced concrete bunker with high powered weapons and lots of ammunition. Dr. Rodney Crow, Chief of Identification Service who surveyed the killing field after the fire in 1993 said:

There were weapons everywhere. I don’t remember moving a body that didn’t have a gun melted to it, intertwined with it, between the legs, under the arm or in close proximity. … The women were probably more immersed in the weapons than anyone else, because there was so much weaponry inside the bunker. It was like sea shells on a beach, but they were spent casings and spent bullets. If you had rubber gloves and tried to smooth it away, you’d tear your gloves away from the bullet points that are unexploded, or unspent ammunition. Then as you went through layer after layer, you came upon weapons that were totally burned. Until we got down to the floor, and it was mint condition ammunition there. Ammunition boxes not even singed. … They stored the weapons in the safest place. Then on top of the bunker is where the 50-caliber was found.(5)

As those who have participated in WAR know, storming a well fortified bunker is very dangerous. Would Synergic Containment Officers ever storm such a bunker. I don’t know, but I hope not. 

The Texas Rangers who collected the weapons after the fire reported that in addition to the 50-caliber machine gun, they found  60 M-16 machine guns, 60 AK-47 assault rifles, about 30 AR-15 assault rifles, several .50-caliber sniper rifles and dozens of pistols.

Perhaps a better question is, Why were the members of this church allowed to buy hundreds of military weapons and such enormous quantities of military grade ammunition?

As you sow, so shall you reap.

Now certainly, the 22 children who died at Waco were innocent, and their deaths were tragic. I can’t imagine how they could have been protected by assaulting the compound with more high powered weapons. Even today, there remains much controversy as to whether the FBI’s actions of pushing the assault may have contributed to the children’s deaths. We may never know, but I don’t think that would be the case with Synergic Containment. A synergic force would have simply waited them out. As they got more and more hungry, thirsty and weaker, I expect most of them would have come out.

Would Synergic Containment prevent the leaders of the Branch Davidian Church from killing all the members and then committing suicide as  happened in Jonestown?

No! Not as I have described synergic containment here.

The purpose of Synergic Containment is the protection of Humanity as Community and Humanity as Individuals. When those two goals conflict, then the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

Sometimes Containment Officers will risk their lives to rescue victims or hostages, but they will always do it cautiously and with great care. They will do it when they believe success if possible.

As for the children in Waco, unfortunately, their mothers and fathers failed to protect them. And, the ATF and FBI failed to protect them. That is indeed sad. I would hope that we could learn something from the mistakes that were made.

Synergic Containment of Iraq

You can’t cure adversity with adversity. As we watch the night and day
‘mares’ that serves as daily life for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, we must see that “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”does not work.

I agree with President Bush that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man. I agree that he must be contained and rendered impotent—incapable of hurting others. But, I differ with Bush on the method.


How would one Synergically Contain a rogue nation? For now, I leave that as a mental exercise for the reader.

Front Page

Monday, May 14th, 2007

From the 2002 SynEARTH Archives. … We continue with the third in our SafeEARTH series. See: 1) Beyond Crime and Punishment 2) Synergic Containment: Protecting Children

Synergic Containment

Science and Rationale

Timothy Wilken, MD

Synergy at its most basic simply means “working together.”Synergic science is then the study of “working together.” As science has progressed in helping us understand the human condition, it is now clear that we are an interdependent species. Sometimes I depend on others, and sometimes others depend on me. Another important fact of being in interdependent species is we share the same environment—the same reality.

Shared Reality

At home, we share the same living space with friends or family. If I turn the heater thermostat up, the room will become warmer for everyone. Control of that reality is shared. If I start yelling and screaming, things will get much noisier for everyone. Control of that reality is shared. If I make a mess or don’t clean up the kitchen, then we are all living in that mess.

This is just as true in the workplace, our neighborhoods, our communities, and in fact in the whole world. We live on a single planet, we all share the same water, the same air and the same resources of the single small planet.

Because control of reality is shared, if I foul the water or air, I foul your water and your air. Whatever I do, will effect you. Whatever you do, will effect me. If we work together and act responsibly, we can minimize the harm we do each other, and maximize the benefits of solving our problems together.

Freedom of action in a shared environment is a privilege, not a right. When we use Synergic Containment to protect a child, we are teaching the child that in a shared environment, he is free to act as long as those actions do not hurt others. We are teaching him to work together and act responsibly.

Synergic containment is probably most attractive to parents because it is a technique to control adversary behavior when you love and care about the individual behaving adversarily. Most parents love and care about their children. Containment is about protecting both the victim and the aggressor. It does this by stopping adversary behavior. Now synergic containment could be used just as effectively outside the family.

Community Use of Synergic Containment 

Throughout the long history of humanity, the primary mechanism for controlling adversary behavior has been adversary punishment. In the short term, adversary punishment seems successful in controlling adversary behavior, but punishment always hurts and injures the one being controlled. This injury tends to breed anger and resentment in the one being punished. Of course the effect is longer if you kill the aggressor, at least until their children grow up.

Now, outside the family, we often do not know or care about the individual being controlled with adversary punishment. So we are less disturbed that they are being injured and hurt. In fact we often identify with the victim, and feel it is only fair that they suffer for their crimes. It is an “eye for an eye,” and a “tooth for a tooth.” It is our very definition of justice.

What we are missing here, is that adversary punishment fails to stop adversary behavior in the long run. Punishment breeds hostility, hatred and eventually revenge. The Israelis and Palestinians have been punishing each other for decades, with no sign that the mutual adversary behavior in their communities is stopping or even slowing. “As you sow, so shall you reap!” You can’t stop adversity with adversity.

We have been adversarily punishing serious crimes in the United States for over 200 years. As the FBI reported in 1998: Despite the fact that as of “midyear 1998, the United States’ prisons and jails incarcerated an estimated 1,802,496 criminals”, in the year 1997, “the number of violent crimes—murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault —and property crimes—burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft —reported to the police departments in the United States totaled 13,175,070.” (2)

Community’s Right of Synergic Containment

In Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek,  Mr. Spock, the Vulcan Science Officer from a race ruled by logic, would remind his shipmates that: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one.”


The human body is a community of 40 trillion individual cells. The individual cells are organized synergically to be interdependent upon each other. They cannot separate themselves from the body as community. The survival of the cells depends on the survival of the body. The needs and safety of the body precedes the needs and safety of the individual cells. Sometimes individual cells are injured or even sacrificed to protect and insure the survival of the body as a whole. The needs and safety of the community of cells takes precedence over the needs and safety of the cells as individuals.

The Needs of the Many

Which is more important? The individual’s right to freedom of action or community’s right to public safety? We can now see that this is a silly and false argument. Community is simply “many” individuals. My freedom of action stops at the boundary of another individual’s personal space and safety.

America has long been the champion of the individual’s right to freedom of action. In fact, our American criminal justice system is so paralyzed by the need to protect the rights of the individual, that our streets are full of criminals, and our e-mail boxes are full of unsolicited junk mail and garbage including pornography and fraudulent offers. Why do we tolerate this? Isn’t it time to grow up? Aren’t we smart enough to create a society that values both an individual’s right to freedom of action and the community’s right to public safety.

With the discovery that humanity is an interdependent species comes the realization that we humans can no longer separate ourselves from community. Humanity as community is larger and contains humanity as individuals. The needs and safety of humanity as community must precede the needs and safety of humanity as individuals.

Community’s Right to Synergic Containment rests on the premise that if you deliberately harm other members of community, you will lose freedom of action within that community. If I harm others in a shared environment, I should expect community to contain my behavior—I should expect community to restrict my  freedom of action.

The Rule of Public Safety is that no human should be allowed to deliberately injure another human—that all adversary actions should ideally be prevented and when not prevented quickly contained.

Our present culture based on the false premise of human independence often places individual needs and safety over community needs and safety. This will shift dramatically in a synergic culture. If we humans choose a positive future, we would want a system that provides both for the protection and safety of humanity as community and humanity as individual.

Life Trust Guardians

This future system might well be modeled after the most successful systems on the planet—the living systems. Your body has a powerful immune system which protects the organism as individual cells and the organism as a whole.

In my proposal for protecting humanity, I have defined those who would assume this role as Life Trust Guardians. Their mission would be the protection of both humanity as community and humanity as individuals. They are bound by two laws.

The Code of the Life Trust Guardians

1) A Life Trust Guardian may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

2) A Life Trust Guardian may not injure an individual human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, except where that would conflict with the First Law.  

The first law of the of the Code commits to protect Humanity as Community. The second law commits to protect Humanity as Individuals. This represents a major shift in human values from today’s focus with the individual as primary to tomorrow’s focus with community as primary.

While Life Trust Guardians are responsible for the safety of both humanity as community and humanity as individuals, the needs and safety of community take precedent over the needs and safety of individuals.

This does not suggest a casual attitude toward the rights of individuals. Life Trust Guardians may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, except where that would cause injury to humanity as a whole — except where that would cause injury to humanity as community. When an adversary event presents no risk to humanity as community then the Synergic Containment Officer’s first responsibility is to the safety of the individual. (3)

Protecting the Public

The Life Trust Guardians (LTG) as described in A Synergic Future have large responsibilities. Here we will only address their role in protecting public safety.

The Public Safety Division of the LTG would be entrusted with protecting the public safety by containment and prevention of adversary events. They will utilize synergic mechanism based on synergic morality to insure freedom from crime. This synergic organization will act more like our body’s immune system, than the law enforcement agencies we are familiar with today. Life Trust Guardians accept the premise that adversary behavior is caused by ignorance and not badness. This is discussed at length elsewhere in Beyond Crime and Punishment. Life Trust Guardians are synergists. They operate in the synergic paradigm.



MISTAKES = Badness MISTAKES = Ignorance


—> self-punish


—> self-educate





Life Trust Guardians accept as their responsibility the protection of humanity as community as well as humanity as individuals.

The Rule of Public Safety is that no human should be allowed to deliberately injure another human— that all adversary actions should ideally be prevented and when not prevented quickly contained.

The Public Safety Division of the Life Trust Guardians accomplish the rule of public safety by:

  • 1) Seeking the Containment of all adversary events,

  • 2) Performing Scientific analysis and investigation of all adversary events to determine the causes and parties responsible,

  • 3) Holding Responsibility Hearings when those suspected of adversary actions claim innocence,

  • 4) Providing Rehabilitation of those responsible for serious and dangerous adversary events up to and including incarceration for long term psychiatric and psychological treatment until they are found to be fully recovered and no longer a threat to the public safety,

  • 5) Providing Education of those responsible for adversary events until they possess the understanding and knowledge necessary to avoid such events in the future,

  • 6) Seeking Restitution from the responsible parties to repair to extent possible the injuries that their adversary actions have caused, and

  • 7) And, always working toward Prevention of future adversary events, by monitoring and/or restricting personal freedom as appropriate to protect the public. (3)

The Public Safety Division is composed various pubic safety specialists. These include: Synergic Containment OfficersScience Officers, Hearing Officers, Rehabilitation Officers, and Prevention Officers.

Let us examine the process in more detail. When an adversary event occurs and an injury is reported to the Life Trust Guardians, they will dispense Containment Officers to the scene of the injury to analyze the adversary event, and if further risk to body or life exists, contain it.

Principles of Synergic Containment

1) Protection and safety of Humanity as Community.

2) Protection and safety of Humanity as Individual

3) When in conflict, the protection and safety of Community takes precedence over the protection and safety of the Individual.  “The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few or of the one.” A community is a collection of many individuals.

4) The force of Synergic Containment is overwhelmingly powerful. The power of community is much much greater than the power of any individual or group of individuals. The power of the many outweighs the power of the few or of the one.

5) The force of Synergic Containment is never applied to punish others for wrongdoing. It is applied only to protect. The goal is to protect the largest number of individuals possible. Because this force is so powerful it must be applied carefully. It is always applied with love and compassion. It is always applied thoughtfully, carefully, intelligently, cautiously, and calmly. Ideally, individuals win, community wins, Life wins and the Earth wins. If some must lose, all efforts will be made to minimize that loss.

Depending on the nature and severity of the adversary event, Containment Officers have the authority to take those suspected of adversary actions into custody. Public safety is paramount. Suspects are required to cooperate with the Containment Officers, and if asked to enter into custody to do so voluntarily.

Containment of adversary events is the prime responsibility of the Synergic Containment Officers. They are required to protect themselves and the public. If a suspect resists being taken into custody, the Containment Officers will utilize the most advanced containment technology in every effort to avoid injury to the suspects, but if the suspects resist, Containment Officers are authorized to use whatever level of force necessary to insure public safety. This includes authorization to use deadly force.

When a synergist is containing an adversary, he must speak the language they understand—the language of force.

While our immune system lacks any ability to repair or rehabilitate cancer cells, the Life Trust Guardians should have much greater success rehabilitating and educating adversarily behaving humans. In a synergic future, all Physicians, Psychiatrists and Psychologists will be Life Trust Guardians. As humanity becomes more synergic and our knowledge of human psychology becomes greater, the need for deadly force should diminish.

In a moment we will examine how this might work in the real world, but first we need to define what it means to be “hurt”. Recall, when an adversary event occurs and an injury is reported to the Life Trust Guardians, they will dispense Containment Officers to the scene of the injury to analyze the adversary event.

Today, if you have a house fire you call the fire department. If you have home accident with personal injury, you call an ambulance. Now within synergic society all of these problems would be reported to and handled by the Life Trust Guardians, but Synergic Containment Officers would only respond to reports of adversary events.

An adversary event involves the intentionally injuring or threatening to injure other individuals–fighting and flighting–pain and dying. This is where we find conflict–the struggle to avoid losing–the struggle to avoid being hurt or killed. These are the events that our police forces respond to today.

Synergic Containment

Synergic Containment Officers are only responsible for containment of adversary events.


Their first task will be to contain the adversary event, and prevent the event from spreading further into community and involving new victims. 


Synergic society does not view the perpetrators as bad or criminal. However, they certainly recognize that they are dangerous. Recall in our initial discussion of using synergic containment to protect children, we are seeking to contain and protect all the individuals caught up in an adversary event—both victims and perpetrators. Containment is about protecting both the victim and the aggressor.

Synergic Rescue 

Once the adversary event has been contained, the second task becomes to safely rescue all of the individuals caught up in the event. This rescue is prioritized. First to be rescued are victims at greatest risk for further harm, then victims at lower risk. Once the victims are safe, the synergic containment officers will begin their rescue of the perpetrators.

 Synergic Disarmament

If those perpetrating the adversary event have weapons, they must be disarmed. Today, the danger of adversary events is greatly magnified by access to weapons. We humans are Time-binders. That means as a species we can create knowledge without limit. When we incorporate knowledge into matter-energy it is called a tool. Because knowledge can grow without limit, tools can also grow without limit. When tools are used to hurt others, they are called weapons. In our modern world, we have created ever more powerful weapons. These weapons are not safe in the hands of ignorance.

Once the perpetrators of an adversary event are contained, their victims rescued, then they will be disarmed, this must be effected before they can be rescued.